Women’s Soccer Cinderella Story of the Month: Uruguay’s U-17 WNT

[Updated] Uruguay’s Under-17 Women’s National Team has qualified for the 2012 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan in the most incredible fashion: By winning all its matches in the first group stage, and then by winning both its matches so far in the second/final group stage. That is six straight matches. To put this in perspective of Uruguayan women’s football, before this tournament, the combined record of all of Uruguay’s WNTs was 7-32-5 (W-L-T) in all Sudamericano championship competitions (senior, U-20, U-17). In the previous U-17 tournaments (2008 and 2010) Uruguay had only won one match. And, that was back in 2008 (a combined record of 1-7-0).

(Note: Information is sketchy and unofficial, so details are a bit lacking. Details such as goal-scorers, and especially the times when goals were scored may not be 100% accurate.)

Backing up, the South American Women’s Under-17 Championship (“Campeonato Sudamericano Feminino Sub 17”) features U-17 WNTs from all ten of CONMEBOL’s member nations. The ten teams are divided into two single round-robin groups of five. The top two teams in each group advance to the second phase of the tournament, which is a traditional single round-robin group of four. This year, CONMEBOL has three spots allocated for the U-17 WWC, so only one of the final four teams will not earn a spot.

This year’s tournament is hosted by Bolivia. Uruguay’s matches have all been played in Bolivia’s captial, Sucre, which has an athletically significant altitude of around 9,000 feet. At altitudes above 5,000 feet, for every additional 1,000 feet, oxygen intake is reduced 3%. So, at 9,000 feet, oxygen intake is less than 90% of what it would be at sea level. (Comparatively, the 2008 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship was contested in Puebla, Mexico, at an altitude of 7,000 feet. The U-20 USWNT trained in Park City, Utah, prior to leaving for Mexico. Oxygen intake information is taken from that link).

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Uruguay is a small nation (only 3.5 million people), but it has a big soccer history. Uruguay hosted the first World Cup (1930), which it won and also won a second World Cup in 1950, defeating host Brazil in the final. In 2010, Uruguay finish third at the World Cup, after reaching the semifinals with the help of a controversial goal-line handball by Luis Suarez.

Uruguay’s women’s teams, however, have been lackluster, to put it mildly. They are not the worst in CONMEBOL, but they have been historically in the bottom half. Uruguay’s senior national team is ranked 8th in CONMEBOL (out of 10, remember) and 69th overall. If Uruguay was in CONCACAF, they would rank between Haiti (6th in confederation; 60th overall) and Guatemala (7th in confederation; 81st overall). (FIFA.com Women’s Rankings page.) In its most recent match, according to FIFA.com’s unofficial match list, Uruguay lost 0:8 to France in a friendly last November (FFF.fr matchtracker).

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The fact that a lower-ranked CONMEBOL team has advanced to the U-17 WWC is not news. In the two previous cycles, CONMEBOL has had three slots each time, with Brazil qualifying for both previous Cups. Colombia (2008) and Venezuela (2010) both had 7th ranked senior teams when their U-17 teams qualified. (Paraguay in 2008; and Chile in 2010 were the other teams to qualify for the U-17 WWC from CONMEBOL.)

But, no team other than Brazil had won all its group matches in the U-17 championship. That is, until Uruguay did it this year.

Uruguay’s victories have not been easy, but they have been dramatic. In their six wins so far, two of those victories being come-from-behind (Bolivia, Peru). Also, three times Uruguay has let the other team equalize (Ecuador, Peru, Colombia). And, twice, Uruguay won with only ten woman due to ejections (a double yellow versus Peru in the 40th minute, a straight red versus Colombia in the 60th minute). And, most dramatically, two of those matches were won either in the last minute of normal time or extra-time (Bolivia, Colombia.)

Uruguay has one more final phase group match, versus Brazil, who, with a 3:1 come-from-behind victory over Colombia, have also qualified for the U-17 WWC. Uruguay needs a win over Brazil to be crowned champions of South America, while Brazil can earn the title with just a draw.

Uruguay’s goleadora is Yamila Badell ( b. 1-Mar-1996) who scored 9 goals, including an impressive 4-goal performance against Argentina in the final group phase. Badell is the daughter of Gustavo Badell (es.Wikipedia), who played professionally in Uruguay and a few other South American countries.

Badell is one of nine players on the roster from Uruguay’s Colon FC. The other eight players include two sisters and the apparent daughter of the head coach.

*Updated: There was some discrepancy, but the official tally appears to be nine goals. See the note, immediately below, in the summary for the first match.

Uruguay 7, Ecuador 2.
19: Yamila Badell (1:0).
33: Pamela González (2:1).
39: Alaides Bonilla (3:1).
59: Keisy Silveira or Yamila Badell (4:1).^
67: Keisy Silveira  or Yamila Badell (5:2).^
70: Carolina Birizamberri (6:2).
79: Carina Felipe (7:2).
^Note: Badell apparently scored one of these goals, most likely the second one, but unofficial reports contradict each other. Officially, Badell is credited with nine goals (per the Twitter account of an Uruguayan soccer association press officer.)

Uruguay, via Yamila Badell, scored first, but Ecuador equalized in the 28th minute on a corner kick that was headed into the net. Pamela González scored Uruguay’s go-ahead goal following a free kick, which was not properly cleared. The third goal, scored by Alaides Bonilla, was also on a set piece, and could have been a direct conversion.

Ecuador got a goal back in the 64th minute when Uruguay’s backline, specifically Carina Felipe , could not clear the ball.

Uruguay 2, Bolivia 1.
75: Yamila Badell (PK, 1:1).
90+: Yamila Badell (2:1).

According to one account, Uruguay was pressing Bolivia’s defense for the first twenty-some minutes, but Bolivia got a goal against the run-of-play in the 26th minute. For the next forty-plus  minutes, Uruguay tried to equalize. Then, Yamila Badell had a breakaway dribble into the box, where she was fouled. Badell then converted the PK for the equalizer.

Four minutes later, in the 79th, Bolivia had a shot that bounced off Ecuador’s crossbar.

Then, in the first or third minute of stoppage time, Yamila Badell scored the game-winning goal.

Uruguay 1, Argentina 0.
42: Carolina Birizamberri.

With the victory, Uruguay qualified for the final four-team round-robin phase. (Unable to find any specific details about the goal or other scoring chances.)

Uruguay 3, Peru 2.
19: Jemina Rolfo (1:1).
27: Alaides Bonilla (2:1).
75′ Yamila Badell (PK, 3:2)

As Uruguay had already qualified, the outcome of the match only affected Uruguay’s seed in the final group. Peru scored early (11th minute), then Jemina Rolfo equalized for Uruguay. Eight minutes later, Alaides Bonilla added a second goal for Uruguay.

In the 39th minute, Uruguay was down to ten women as Agustina Arámbulo was given her second yellow card. Five minutes later, Peru scored the equalizer.

With fifteen minutes to go in the match, a penalty kick was awarded to Uruguay, which Yamila Badell converted.

Uruguay 2, Colombia 1 (Final Group, First Match).
20: Carolina Birizamberri (1:0).
90: Carolina Birizamberri (2:1).

Uruguay went up 1:0 in the first half via a Carolina Birizamberri goal (edit:, via a free kick), but Colombia was awarded a penalty in the 60th minute when Uruguay’s captain Nicole Arámbulo (apparently Augstino Arámbulo’s older sister — their patronyms and matronyms are the same) was given a straight red card for a handball in the penalty box.

Colombia converted that PK and Uruguay played with ten women the rest of the match.

But, in the 90th minute, Birizamberri, apparently on a breakaway, scored the game-winner. Edit: This, like the first goal, was scored directly off a free kick. Video highlights of this match and the Brazil/Argentina match:

Uruguay 4, Argentina 2 (Final Group, Second Match).
49: Yamila Badell (1:0).
51: Yamila Badell (2:0).
70: Yamila Badell (3:0).
80: Yamila Badell (4:1).

Uruguay only needed a draw (1 point) to qualify for the U-20 WWC.

The first half was  scoreless. Then, Yamila Badell scored two goals in three minutes (49′, 51′) and a third goal twenty minutes later (70′). Argentina got a goal back in the 79th minute, but Badell scored again immediately after that. Argentina also got another goal in the 86th minute, but there were no more late heroics for the Argentine squad in the final four minutes of normal time and four minutes of added time.

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On the final match day, Uruguay lost to Brazil by a single goal, 1:0. Thus, Brazil finished at the top of the final group, with Uruguay in second place. Apparently, Uruguay’s goalkeeper, Valentina Rodríguez, was excellent in goal (Twitter.) The lone goal was scored in the 11th minute by Brazil’s Andressa Cavalari Machry.

In the other match, Colombia won 4:0 over Argentina, and finished third in the group. With its win, Colombia claimed the last spot from CONMEBOL for the 2012 U-17 WWC.

The tournament’s leading goal scorer was Uruguay’s Yamila Badell, with 9 goals. The next top goal scorers were two Brazilian players: Byanca Beatriz Silva and Brena Carolina V. Oliveira with 8 goals and 7 goals, respectively. (Twitter) Badell’s 9 goals is a tournament record. The previous record was from 2010, when Christiano of Brazil scored 7 goals (in 6 matches; the final phase was knock-out matches).

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About the roster: (1) There are some quirks about the names of the positions that don’t jive with the typical South American Spanish terms for positions. (2) Also, some of the club information is different from a previous roster.

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