All you need to know about Colombia vs. Spain

What’s the big picture?

It’s the World Cup final! Sure, it’s the U-17 version, but there’s nothing bigger than a World Cup final, is there? Spain have already been here and done that — the last edition in 2018, in fact — and they’ll hoping to be the first team to ever defend this crown. (North Korea are the only team to win the U-17 WWC twice, in 2008 and then in 2016).

Spain had also finished runners up in 2014, and finished third in 2016 and 2010: they are giants in this age group.

Colombia, meanwhile, had never before even crossed the group stages of a U17 Women’s World Cup. La Goliath, say ola to David. For two teams making their fifth appearance at this stage, the disparity in records couldn’t be starker.

Rather interestingly they had met each other on the second day of the tournament: a 1-0 win for Spain thanks to an 85th minute Jone Amezaga goal.

When is it?

Sunday, October 30 at the DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai. Kickoff is at 8 PM India time.

How did they get to the final?

Spain qualified to the World Cup as defending champions (and they finished runner-up in the 2022 U-17 Women’s European championship) while Colombia qualified as runners-up of the 2022 U-17 Women’s South American championship).

In the World Cup proper they were in the tightest group (C) of the tournament. Going into the final round of matches any of the four teams in the group (Mexico and China being the others) could have qualified, with all four on three points from two games. Narrow wins for Spain (1-0 vs China), and Colombia (2-1 vs Mexico) meant those two went through. The intensity and closeness of their matches in this group seems to have held them in good stead since.

Quarterfinals: Spain 2-1 Japan (come from behind win with goals in the 87th and 93rd minutes) and Colombia 3-0 Tanzania (all three goals came in a first half show of dominance).

Semifinals: Spain 1-0 Germany (90th minute winner) and Nigeria 0(5)-0 (6) Colombia (Despite missing their third penalty, they came from behind to win in sudden death).

What happened to the winners of India’s group?

USA and Brazil had breezed through the group, but stumbled at the first stage after. The US were knocked out by a ‘miraculous’ penalty shootout against Nigeria, while Brazil were dominated by Germany in a 2-0 defeat.

Any concerns ahead of the final?

For Colombia

The last time they met (Oct 12, so very recently), Spain hogged possession (70%), had double the number of shots (14 vs 7: four on target vs just one), more than double the passes (495 vs 220 at 78% accuracy vs 54%). Basically, they were thoroughly outplayed. Coach Carlos Paniagua will not mind ceding possession, but will be hoping they can be quite a bit more threatening at the other end.

For Spain

Spain start slow, at least in terms of troubling the scoreboard operators. All six of the goals they have scored in this tournament have come past the hour mark, four of those after 85 minutes. This shows they hold their nerve well enough — but the final is the final. They might want to up the ante a bit earlier.

For the neutral

Let’s hope it rains a little less violently than it did for the quarterfinals they played there. Oh, and let’s also hope we never again have to witness the faintly ridiculous sight of a cricket pitch cover being rolled on to protect what is, for the day, just central midfield.

Key players

Vicky Lopez (#9)

When you are considered the next big thing at the best women’s football club on the planet at age 16, you’re doing something right. Vicky Lopez is the undoubted star of this Spanish side (and it’s top scorer, with two — both in that stunning comeback in the quarterfinal). A Madridista born to a Spanish father and Nigerian mother, she moved from Madrid CFF (no connection to Real Madrid) to Barcelona Femeni B (every connection to FC Barcelona) at the start of this season. She’d scored 60 goals in 17 games in the youth leagues the season before to earn that move. An attacking midfielder who is also comfortable playing off either wing, Lopez is a direct threat — in terms of assists and goals.

Colombia’s best bet in stopping her will probably come from stifling possession for those around her.

Linda Caicedo (#11)

Linda Caicedo. ��‍��@FCFSeleccionCol | #U17WWC pic.twitter.com/DmPuxNx8ai

When you are named the player of the tournament at the (senior) Copa America feminina, you know you can play a bit of football. Linda Caicedo can do that and then some. At 17, she has been the absolute superstar of this tournament as well — her skills, direct running and ruthless eye for goal lifting Colombia to unprecedented heights in India. Having made her professional debut at 14 (!), she’s a regular for the senior team at Deportivo Cali and indeed the senior Colombian national team, whom she inspired to the Copa America final this year (she scored the winner in their 1-0 semifinal win over Argentina).

Stopping her one-on-one is next to impossible: what can be done is keep the ball away from her (either by double marking her and passing channels to her, like Nigeria did; or just keeping the ball all the time like Spain themselves did in the first match).

Predicted XIs

Spain XI (4-3-3): Fuente (GK); Ortega, Arteto, Villafane, Pujols; Rivas, Libran, Lopez; Partido, Camacho, Amezaga.

Colombia XI (4-2-3-1): Agudelo (GK); Zapata, Perlaza, Alvarez, Chavarro; Ortegon, Sules; Salazar, Caicedo, Munoz; Quintero.

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