July 30, 2023 -SYDNEY (AP) — Believe the hype. Linda Caicedo is for real, and so are Colombia’s chances of going far at the Women’s World Cup.
As for the country’s fans, who gave Sydney Football Stadium the feel of a Colombia home game on Sunday, their passionate support created a jubilant atmosphere that lingered long after a 2-1 win over two-time champion Germany provided one of the tournament’s great upsets.
“This is something historic for us. We’ve been feeling the whole time the backing from the fans from our country,” Colombia assistant coach Angelo Marsiglia said. “Today we were playing as a home team.”
Caicedo produced another moment of magic to put Colombia on course for back-to-back wins in Group H with her opening goal in the 52nd minute. She needed treatment late in regulation but stayed on the field and, five minutes later, Alexandra Popp equalized from the penalty spot.
That setback for Colombia in the 89th merely preceded an even later twist when defender Manuela Vanegas headed in a winner in seventh minute of stoppage time.
Cue wild celebrations from Colombia, and looks of disbelief among the German players.
Caicedo and her teammates certainly have had a dramatic campaign.
The 18-year-old Real Madrid star had a health scare earlier in the week when she dropped to the ground, holding her chest in a practice session. Team officials said it was fatigue, and she certainly appeared to be in full flight for her stunning second-half strike.
Cancer survivor Caicedo had already scored from a distance in the 2-0 win against South Korea on Tuesday. But while that goal involved an error from goalkeeper Yoon Young-girl, on this occasion it was all about individual brilliance.
Collecting the ball from just inside the area after a corner, she worked her way into space by bewildering two German defenders in a fast-stepping move before lashing a shot into the top corner.
Caicedo, followed by her teammates, charged toward the corner to get closer to share the moment with the elated crowd.
“Linda Caicedo is a fantastic player. We knew that before the World Cup,” Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said. “We needed to be very attentive.
“It was a good goal. I have to admit that. But we definitely should be better. We should keep the ball.”
Germany is unlikely to be the last team to get the Caicedo treatment in her debut World Cup, provided she remains healthy.
Just days after struggling with fatigue at practice, Caicedo needed medical treatment behind play in the 84th minute. She dropped to the ground and, as she lay face down on the pitch, was checked by trainers as the referee stood nearby. She got up and started walking to the bench but, after signaling she was okay, went back onto the field and continued the game.
Marsiglia later tried to allay concerns, explaining that the teenager had been exhausted but adding that there was a “bit of acceleration” in her heart.
While Caicedo has been her country’s inspiration at the tournament, Vanegas’ late strike embodied the wide spread of talent in the team.
She rose to head in substitute Leicy Santos’ corner deep into time and added on to move Colombia to the top of the group.