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Colombia Made The Ground Shake And Stunned Germany

Manuela Vanegas of Colombia celebrates after scoring her team's second goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group H match between Germany and Colombia at Sydney Football Stadium on July 30, 2023 in Sydney, Australia.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Signs can only hold so many thoughts—one is typically the limit—but the sign displayed at the end of Colombia's jaw-slackening 2-1 victory over Germany Sunday morning read "COLOMBIA IS LINDA." Linda is Caicedo, the 18-year-old exemplar whose second-half goal was so good it caused New Zealand to celebrate with a 4.6 earthquake.

Truth is, though, Colombia is way more than Caicedo, and proved it Sunday morning with a comprehensive performance that ended with left back Manuela Vanegas blocking a shot in her own end 30 seconds before heading home the winning goal from just inside the penalty spot to finish off not only Colombia's best game ever but the best game of this tournament. If you have the independence of thought to take what the tournament gives you rather than cling to old jingoistic ideas of fandom, Colombia is your favorite team now.

Caicedo is, of course, the magnet, especially since she was four days removed from collapsing during training and unconscious for 90 seconds before being revived. Her explosive talent, fully on display against the Germans, led to a stupefying score from a hard left-side angle in minute 51, cutting inside German defender Sara Dabritz before unleashing a rocket past Merle Frohms and inspiring one of New Zealand's hyperkinetic tectonic plates to shrug in approval.

But she was off the field, having been substituted six minutes into stoppage time by Marcela Restrepo, as the Colombians mustered their enduring defensive stand against the persistent but slightly discomfited Germans, and then converted a 98th minute corner from Leicy Santos to Vanegas' forehead into the game-winner. It was the just end to an effervescent game in which the Colombians were more persnickety, dogged and tactically daring than the higher-rated Germans, and handed out as much as they absorbed in a game that by reputational rights should have been done and dusted at the hour mark. Germany hadn't lost a group stage game since 1995, but their defeat today seemed the proper outcome based on the run of play. This was Colombia's moment, not just Caicedo's, and their combination of skill and orneriness suddenly inserts into the short list of potential tournament winners.

And yet they are not even guaranteed a place beyond their Thursday game against Morocco, though a draw will be sufficient to get them in the next round. They could still lose to the Moroccans by four goals, the Germans could beat South Korea, and they'd be the best team not to advance. That's not the way to bet, though—it is far more likely that the Germans will still advance as the second team and have time to contemplate their timidity at goal and inability to seize the game against Colombia.

But the Colombians already know how to play at this level, having just shown and shaken the world by disproving "Colombia Is Linda." She is, to be sure, a hell of a starting point, but Colombia is so much more.

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