Dreams big­ger than fears

Colom­bia is fu­eled by suc­cess over France and is ready for U. S. in elim­i­na­tion game.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter

ED­MON­TON, Canada — For Colom­bia, Mon­day’s sec­ond- round Women’s World Cup game against the U. S. is shap­ing up as more of a grudge match than a soc­cer match.

And for the South Amer­i­cans, it’s a ri­valry that’s been years in the mak­ing, dat­ing to the 2012 Olympics, when Colom­bia’s Lady An­drade punched Amer­i­can Abby Wam­bach in the eye, earn­ing a two- game sus­pen­sion.

The next day, Wam­bach posted pic­tures of her shiner on so­cial media, and the Colom­bians have been stew­ing ever since.

“What hap­pened is that fol­low­ing that episode, and be­cause of some­thing that hap­pened three years ago, they said things that were not taken by us in the best way,” midfielder Yoreli Rin­con said Sun­day.

Last week, An­drade stirred things up again, ac­cus­ing the U. S. of be­lit­tling her team and pre­dict­ing that the Colom­bians would earn their re­spect by beat­ing the sec­ond- ranked Amer­i­cans in Mon­day’s elim­i­na­tion game.

That’s no idle threat: Ear­lier in the tour­na­ment, the South Amer­i­cans shocked third- ranked France, 2- 0.

“There is no such thing as small en­e­mies,” Colom­bian Coach Fabian Taborda said. “Those that you never ex­pect are the ones that will kill you.”

The U. S. has re­fused to re­turn f ire in the war of words, with midfielder Me­gan Rapi­noe pro­fess­ing undy­ing re­spect for Colom­bia and Wam­bach in­sist­ing she’s a “per­son that doesn’t fo­cus on things that hap­pened three years ago” — which was kind of a dig in it­self.

Colom­bia is clearly rel­ish­ing the feud.

“We don’t have much to lose, but we have a lot to gain,” Rin­con said. “We know how they play. They are clearly tall and ath­letic, but they don’t have the heart the Colom­bians do.”

Added goal­keeper Catalina Perez: “Our dreams are big­ger than our fears.”

And those dreams have been grow­ing since the firstround up­set of France.

“That helped a lot,” Perez said. “We knew we could do it. And when ev­ery­thing played out, it was like, ‘ We can make history, we are mak­ing history.’ Why stop now? We feel like we have more sup­port at home.”

Colom­bia may be emerg­ing as a global soc­cer power. Its men’s team ad­vanced to the quar­ter­fi­nals of the pres­ti­gious Copa Amer­ica on Sun­day, a year af­ter mak­ing a run to the quar­ter­fi­nals of the men’s World Cup, where it won more games ( 4) in three weeks than it had won in the 13 pre­vi­ous World Cups com­bined.

Now its women’s team stands among the fi­nal 16 at its World Cup, mak­ing Colom­bia just the third coun­try from the Amer­i­cas — be­hind the U. S. and Brazil — to make it to the knock­out round of both the men’s and women’s World Cup.

Perez, who was born in Bo­gota but raised in Boca Ra­ton, Fla., said that suc­cess is hav­ing a pro­found ef­fect back home, where Taborda es­ti­mated there are no more than 5,000 girls and women play­ing soc­cer. ( Be­cause there is no pro­fes­sional league for women in Colom­bia, 17 mem­bers of the na­tional team play club soc­cer while work­ing day jobs.)

“We could be the gen­er­a­tion that re­ally makes soc­cer ac­cept­able and brings a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to Colom­bian girls,” said Perez, 20, a ju­nior at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami.

Against the U. S., the Colom­bian women will need to ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions once again, be­cause start­ing goal­keeper San­dra Sepul­veda is in­el­i­gi­ble af­ter draw­ing her sec­ond yel­low card in the wan­ing mo­ment of the f inal group- play game against Eng­land.

Perez thinks they’re up to the chal­lenge.

“Why set lim­its on what we can do?” Perez said. “We can’t con­trol out­comes, but we can con­trol our at­ti­tude and how we go into the game.”

kevin. bax­ter@ latimes. com

Minas Panagiotakis Getty I mages

LADY AN­DRADE of Colom­bia, who was sus­pended in 2012 when she punched Amer­i­can Abby Wam­bach in the eye, pre­dicted the Colom­bians would earn their re­spect by beat­ing the sec­ond- ranked Amer­i­cans.

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