Colombia secure quarter final slot. Parsimonious Puerto Rico look set to join them

February 27 – Colombia secured second place in Group B with a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico in the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.

Goals from their stand out strikers Maria Usme and Linda Caicedo dispatched a Puerto Rican side who had qualified through the preliminary play-offs and now restricted world ranked 23 Colombia to two goals to follow a 1-0 loss to Brazil, world ranked 11 and beating 2023 World Cup finalists Panama 2-1.

Colombia are an outside contender for the inaugural W Gold Cup. They dominated this final group matchwith 68% of possession and making a total of 505 passes to Puerto Rico’s 198. But with all that ball at their feet they only outshot Puerto Rico 12-7.

Puerto Rico don’t give anything away for free and lined up with their more than capable back four with Amber Diorio and Madison Cox at centrebacks against a Colombian attack that included Usme, Ilana Izquierdo and the mercurial Real Madrid talent Caiecdo on the left wing.

It was set up for another game of attack (this time Colombia’s) against Puerto Rico’s stalwart defence.

Puerto Rico knew that if they could keep the score down then their goal difference and the three points against Panama would likely be enough to see them into the quarter finals.

On 15’ minutes Colombia had their first goal. Caicedo, deep on the left wing laid the ball back to Manuel Vanegas whose cross to Pavi was chested down to Usme who coolly took one touch before finishing to Martinez’ left.

Martinez, who has been the imposing presence in Puerto Rico’s campaign, was called into action in the 21stminute with a diving save low to her right from a Vanegas header. What makes Martinez such a good keeper is her ability to gather the ball whether it is from shots at her or crosses into her box.

Colombia’s Liana Salazar

On 37’ minutes Puerto Rico had their first opportunity. A ball to Juelle Love at the top of the Colombia box found her in space but her first touch was just to heavy to get any power into her shot and Natalia Cirado gathered easily, but it was a warning for Colombia. A one goal lead against Puerto Rico can be a dangerous way to live, even when you have most of the ball.

As if to prove the point, in added time at the end of the first half Pavi was yellow carded for a foul on Julienne Aguilera just outside the top left of the box. Nickolette Driesse’s (free kick hit the bar and cannoned out.

The second half opened with Puerto Rico resuming their defensive role.

Real Madrid’s Linda Caicedo made no mistake with Colombia’s second goal

On 51’ Martinez was forced to palm a long shot over the bar but there wasn’t much she could a minute later.

A clearance from a goal kick was picked up by Colombia’s midfield who fed Caicedo on the left. Angling towards goal she cut between two defenders before placing her shot wide of Martinez – 2-0.

With both sides rotating their bench – this was Colombia’s third game in seven days and Puerto Rico’s fourth in 10 – Martinez was in action again, saving low to her left.

On 74’ she plucked Carabal’s free kick out of her top right hand corner – catching a ball comfortably other keepers would have been pleased to palm away.

At the other end Driesse (another of Puerto Rico’s unattached players who will surely find a club after her midfield performances this tournament) saw her shot slide past the post.

In the end it was job done for both side as they now move camp from San Diego to Los Angeles for the weekend’s quarter finals at Angels FC’s BMO Stadium.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1721664392labto1721664392ofdlr1721664392owedi1721664392sni@n1721664392osloh1721664392cin.l1721664392uap1721664392