Colombia’s World Cup team is being roared on by thousands of fans in Australia who are playing a major part in spurring their country to new heights in women’s football.
A Colombian side led by 18-year-old sensation Linda Caicedo caused one of the upsets of the competition so far when they stunned Germany 2-1 on Sunday in Sydney.
Manuela Vanegas’s header in the 97th minute against one of the favorites put Colombia on the cusp of the last 16 and dreaming of winning the World Cup for the first time.
Colombia has appeared at the Women’s World Cup only twice before, in 2011 and in 2015, when they reached the last 16 for the first time. But they failed to qualify for the event four years ago.
They need just a draw on Thursday against Morocco to top their group and could still reach the last 16 even with a defeat.
Dubbed ‘The Powerpuff Girls,’ Caicedo’s Colombia were driven on against Germany by a large majority of the 40,000 spectators at a pulsating Sydney Football Stadium.
The stadium was a sea of yellow shirts with deafening jeers and whistles greeting every German when they touched the ball.
Germany star Lena Oberdorf said it felt like Colombia was at home.
She compared it to when Germany played hosts England at Wembley in the final of the Euros last summer in front of nearly 90,000, a match they also lost 2-1.
“It’s the same — but you don’t expect it when you play against Colombia in Australia,” said the midfielder.
“The fact that there are so many Colombian fans travelling here shows how much women’s football is progressing,” Oberdorf said.
Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, whose side can still reach the last 16, said she felt a few of her players shrunk a little in the face of the frenzied Colombian support.
‘Full of Colombians’
Most Colombians in the crowd seem to be living in Australia rather than having jumped on expensive long-haul flights across the Pacific.
Team spokesman Carlos Lajud told AFP that some are students while others are people who moved to Australia looking for work.
Census figures in 2021 said there were 35,000 people born in Colombia in Australia.
Like other countries, Colombia is enduring high inflation, while unemployment stood at just over 10 percent towards the end of last year.
According to a 2021 report by the International Organization for Migration, about 80 percent of Colombian migrants are in the United States, Spain, Venezuela, Ecuador and Canada.
The rest are split between Australia, Mexico and Panama.
There are nearly five million Colombians living overseas, according to the report.
Outside the stadium before the Germany match, a corner of Sydney became a mini Bogota for a few hours, albeit 15,000 kilometres (9,000 miles) from the Colombian capital.
Colombian fans decked in yellow held flares, danced and banged drums as bemused German fans and locals snapped pictures or observed sheepishly from a distance.
“It’s time we start supporting women’s football in Colombia because they don’t support it,” one male fan told television cameras as jubilant Colombians streamed out of the stadium afterwards.
“As you saw, we were playing as locals. It was full of Colombians, and we won.”
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