FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup: An unlikely fan favourite, Spain’s title defense and the burden of Colombia defeat

Ohen more than 24,000 fans stood with flashlights on at DY Patil Stadium, India saw the dawn of women’s soccer popularity in the country.

The match under discussion is the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 finalwhich saw over 1,85,000 people attend the event, making it the third most-watched U-17 Women’s World Cup of all time.

Fans arrived from all over the world, with make-up, jerseys and even music – making it a festival of the sport.

Morocco fans erupted in the stadium with African jingles and cheers of “Maghreb!” Maghreb”, while Nigeria saw fans circling the stadium with vuvuzelas and the national flag.

The final was no different.

“I live in New York,” said Ason, dressed in a Colombian jersey, shouting with all his heart when the girls came to play.

“I was born in Colombia and I’m here to support our women – Colombian women who reached the final and we’re super proud of them,” as joy spread across her face. Next to him sat his mother, Maria, 70, and her son, a toddler, both dressed in Colombian shirts.

“It’s very good to see Colombia represented in the World Cup with these girls who will now play in the final,” she added.

Colombian fans during the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup final against Spain at DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.

Colombian fans during the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup final against Spain at DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.

Several generations of fans were also seen in the Spanish stands.

With a huge Spanish flag spread across chairs, shouts of ‘Vamos Espana!’ rocked the stadium until the final whistle.

Spain’s dream come true and her love for Sandy

“A final is a dream and we wanted to win it. It was something amazing and we are super happy, super proud and above all, we enjoyed it, which is the most important – to make it a reality,” said Spain captain Marina Artero. sports star after winning the world cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (left) presents Spain's Marina Artero with the winning trophy during the handover ceremony following the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup final 2022 at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (left) presents Spain’s Marina Artero with the winning trophy during the handover ceremony following the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup final 2022 at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.

The Spaniards were technically the superior team throughout the game, where their zone marking proved crucial in the final.

For the second time against Colombia, she deprived her opponent of a single shot on target from inside the area.

But something that stole the show from gamers was a plushie of a dragon named Sandy.

The little gray dragon had accompanied the team since their loss to Mexico. Wearing the jersey of Nina Pou – one of the team members who injured himself a few days before the tournament – Sandy would have brought luck alongside Kenio Gonzalo.

“We bought it at the airport as a symbol to remember the people who couldn’t travel with us to India – for injury or otherwise, including our family,” said Spaniard Sandra Villafane, the player of the match in the final.

Vicky Lopez, the Ballon d’Or winner, said it reflected the “strength of the team”.

The cute-looking toy may be the product of superstition for the Spaniards, but his belief – with and beyond the toy – has seen him, miraculously, defend the World Cup for the first time.

Wearing the jersey of Nina Pou - one of the team members who injured himself a few days before the tournament - Sandy, plush toy of a gray dragon, would have brought luck to Kenio Gonzalo's Spanish team.

Wearing the jersey of Nina Pou – one of the team members who injured himself a few days before the tournament – Sandy, plush toy of a gray dragon, would have brought luck to Kenio Gonzalo’s Spanish team.

The burden of defeat

When Colombia conceded the only goal in the U-17 World Cup final, three of their players were on the ground – watching – as the ball rolled into the net, after a touch on Ana Guzman’s chest, giving Spain a late lead.

This single goal then sealed the fate of the game.

As the girls in sky blue (Spain) rejoiced in victory laps around the pitch, Colombia’s top scorer and her captain, Linda Caicedo, sat clinging to the goal post, crying profusely.

Yesica Munoz, his partner in attack and in the celebratory dances after the victories, collapsed in the mixed zone as local Colombian journalists hugged him.

Colombian Yesica Munoz collapsed in the mixed zone as her country's local reporters hugged her, consoling a child who had just lost her biggest game of her life so far.

Colombian Yesica Munoz collapsed in the mixed zone as her country’s local reporters hugged her, consoling a child who had just lost her biggest game of her life so far.

Colombia battled through and qualified in an extremely tough group, beating Mexico and China and forcing a stubborn Federation to arrange for incentives with their performances.

The cafeteria had several battles off the field during the tournament. His federation initially turned down FIFA incentives for the players – but later announced cash prizes for their excellent show in India.

There are a lot of positives for Colombia’s World Cup squad. The team saw the rise of a new footballing phenomenon in Caicedo, who won the bronze boot with four goals to his name.

Colombia, in its 98 years of professional football, had never seen any of its teams – men or women of any age – play in a FIFA World Cup final.

“The fact that these young players have achieved this means that there will be more and more women in Colombia,” Carlos Paniaguam said after the game.

“Young girls who want to be, you know, Rodriguez or Linda Caicedo and that’s going to really wake up and spark a lot of interest in women’s football.”

After winning the semi-final, the Colombian team danced to a Spanish track called “Todavia”. In English, Todavia roughly translates to nevertheless.

Tomorrow, when the girls go home with silver medals around their necks, their hearts may remain heavy, but they will still realize the result, the flags in the stadiums will be displayed again, the fans will cheer again and they will – sooner or later – win, again.