Linda Caicedo was hailed as “from another planet” after the teenager scored in Colombia’s 2-0 win over South Korea to open their Women’s World Cup campaign on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Real Madrid striker, who overcame cancer three years ago, was the beneficiary of a glaring goalkeeping error against a blunt South Korea.
In bright sunshine in Sydney, Catalina Usme scored a penalty for the South Americans on the half-hour before Caicedo got the second nine minutes later.
South Korea coach Colin Bell brought on United States-born attacker Casey Phair as they chased the game in the second half. At 16 years and 26 days, she made history as the youngest Women’s World Cup player ever.
But it was all about Caicedo, and one of the best young attackers in women’s football has now scored at the Under-17 World Cup, the Under-20 World Cup and the biggest stage of all.
Assistant Angelo Marsiglia, standing in for Colombia coach Nelson Abadia — who was suspended for the game — called Caicedo “extraordinary” and said she “brings a lot of joy to everyone”.
“She has been growing extraordinarily and has a very mature level,” he said of the teenager.
“She did what she had to do and made the difference.
“She wants the ball, never hides, she’s from another planet, entirely unique.”
Colombia move onto three points in Group H with Germany, who thrashed Morocco 6-0 on Monday. Germany and Colombia meet next.
– ‘Phair the future’ –
The Koreans actually made the better start in front of just over 24,000 spectators.
A goalbound attempt from Tottenham Hotspur’s Cho So-hyun from outside the box deflected wide and then Choe Yu-ri should have scored but fired tamely at the goalkeeper.
Colombia have a reputation for being physical, and with strong backing from their noisy and colourful fans, so it proved.
Defender Manuela Vanegas was booked after only 10 minutes as they struggled to get a foothold.
Colombia, known as “the Powerpuff Girls” and making their third appearance at the World Cup, grew into the game and took the lead after their first proper attack.
Defender Shim Seo-yeon blocked a goalbound shot in the box with her hand and Usme stepped up to stroke the resulting penalty into the net past a wrong-footed Yoon Young-geul.
The goal spurred the South Americans on and they led 2-0 six minutes before halftime thanks to a huge error by Yoon.
Caicedo, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 15 but went on to make a full recovery, took the ball down the left, cut in and from just outside the box struck the ball with her right foot.
It should have been a simple save for Yoon, but the ball squirmed excruciatingly through her hands and into the net.
Bell felt that the penalty was harsh.
“The ball was really well struck — that speed, that (close) distance… I don’t know where Shim would put her arms (to avoid the ball).”
He was more happy though about Phair, who was born in the United States to an American father and Korean mother, and hinted she could play more of a part in the next game against Morocco.
“She deserved to get the chance to play, she has trained really well, as good as anyone,” said the 61-year-old coach.
“It is also a signal that that’s the future, she is the future.
“We need strong, fast players with physicality.”