By Maitane Alaña, Olga Bagatini, Flavia Festa, Alexandra Ibaceta
The Women’s Libertadores 2019 kicks off this Friday with Colombian giants Atlético Huila aiming to retain the crown they won in Brazil 12 months ago.
The 11th edition of the competition takes place at high altitude in Quito, Ecuador, despite the political chaos ensuing in the city.
For the first time, the number of teams allowed to participate has been increased to 16, divided into four groups. Teams in groups A and C will play their games in the stadium Olímpico Atahualpa, whereas teams in B and D will play in Casablanca stadium.
A record prize of US$85,000 will be awarded to the champions; an increase of $30,000 on last year.
In the previous ten editions of Copa Libertadores, Brazilian teams have won on seven occasions. São José are the most successful team with three titles, followed by Santos with two. Corinthians and Ferroviária, both participants of this edition, have won one title each. Outside Brazil, Colo-Colo (CHI), Sportivo Limpeño (PAR), who this year have partnered with Club Libertad, and Atlético Huila (COL) have all lifted the trophy on one occasion each.
Check out the clubs’ journeys to the Libertadores 2019:
Group A: Atlético Huila (COL), Cerro Porteño (PAR), Colo-Colo (CHI) and Peñarol (URU)
Atlético Huila (COL)
The champions of the 2018 edition of the tournament are back. The first Colombian team to lift the Libertadores trophy in their first time ever being in the tournament. This year there are three Colombian teams featuring.
The three year old club have already a league title and a Copa Libertadores title. One of the leading figures for women’s football in Colombia.
After their successful run last season, the prize money received from Copa Libertadores was given to their male counterparts at the club for their outstanding debts. Atletico Huila highlights the inequality of women’s football in Colombia, but this does not stop them from not playing for the crest on their shirt from fear.
The women are looking forward to being back and showing their strong determination, perseverance and winning mentality.
Coach: Albeiro Erazo Barrera
Star players: Carolina Arbeláez, Carmen Rodallega
Way to Libertadores: 2018 Copa Libertadores Champions
Cerro Porteño (PAR)
Cerro Porteño are back-to-back Paraguay champions, and this year they will be taking part in their sixth Copa Libertadores. Their best result was in 2014 when they overcame Colombian side Forma ĺntimas in a play-off to finish third in Brazil.
Striker Amada Peralta told the Sports Gazette: “We have a clear goal for Libertadores this year. We want to get the maximum result possible. There is no game more complicated than another – every game is a difficult one. In each group there are really strong teams and each game will require the same sacrifices.”
She then added that although TVs are not broadcasting the competition in Paraguay, the team can feel the excitement through social media and from the support of the fans.”
Coach: Nelson Basualdo
Star players: Gloria Saleb – best goalkeeper of the FIFA Women Honors League 2019
Angéllica Vázquez – top scorer (34 goals) of the FIFA Women Honors League 2019
Way to Libertadores: 2018 Women Paraguayan League Champions
Colo-Colo are making their ninth appearance in the tournament, looking to repeat their achievement from 2012 when they became the Champions. The first non-Brazilian team to lift the trophy and featured big names such as Christiane Endler.
For the past nine years they have been the dominant force in women’s football in Chile, having won 13 league titles. The next team with the most league titles has a total of two.
Not only do Jamie Zapata’s team have to compete with reigning champions Atletico Huila in their group, but they must also contend with the oppressive altitude in Quito. In the final days of their preparation, they took their training to the north of Chile and El Salvador to help them acclimatise.
After qualifying from a last minute qualifying match against league second place Palestino, the squad is with their permanent Alba confidence.
Coach: Jaime Zapata
Star Players: Rosario Balmaceda, Yessenia López, Nathalie Quezada, Yusmery Ascanio
Way to Libertadores: Won Copa Libertadores qualifying play-offs
Two-time Uruguayan champion, Peñarol will play Libertadores for the second time in a row. The club will face defending current champion Huila at the opening match this Friday, and the players are quite aware of their challenges in the condition of an amateur team.
“We know international tournaments are complicated for us because we are an amateur team who will play against professionals,” said captain Florencia Vicente to Radio Uruguay.
“There are also the altitude issues, but we trained in a chamber to simulate the lack of air and I believe we are well prepared. We did the best we could with what we had in our hands and we’ll fight until the very end.”
Coach: Daniel Pérez
Star Players: Florencia Vicente, Ximena Velazco and Jemina Rolfo
Way to Libertadores: 2018 Uruguay Champion
Group B: Dep. Cuenca (ECU), Estudiantes (VEN), Ferroviária (BRA), Mundo Futuro (BOL)
Dep. Cuenca (ECU)
The players for Deportivo Cuenca, trained by Wendy Villón, were the champions of the Women’s Superligue in Ecuador, playing against Ñañas in a match where Madelín Riera, the captain, broke an historical Ecuadorian record with 44 goals, one more than Jaime Iván Kavienes.
Deportivo Cuenca are going to play the Libertadores for the first time in their history. They count on Tatiana Bermeo’s influential game from the side, who is the youngest player in the team at just 16. She started playing in the initial squad in June and has now 31 matches and one goal at her feet. She dreams of playing for FC Barcelona in Spain.
Before the start of the season in April, the team signed on Madeleine Riera, Andrea Pesántez and Érika Vásquez, who also defend Equator’s national team.
Wendy Villón, their coach, has won six national championships and revealed to El Telegráfo the players’ sacrifices to play with the team, “some of them have left their kids and husbands.”
Coach: Wendy Villón
Star players: Madelin Riera
Way to LIbertadores: Winners of Women’s Superleague
Estudiantes de Caracas will take part in the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history and will be the only team representing Venezuela this year. The team qualified for the competition by winning the Venezuelan Superleague in an away game against Flor de Patria, the 2018 champions.
Women’s Copa Libertadores does not have the same mediatic impact as the men’s tournament, but the lack of coverage is the result not only of the media and Conmebol’s actions, but also the teams’ — it has been difficult to obtain updated information from their official channels.
Coach: Orlando Mejía
Star players: Yoelidis Lizcano
Way to Libertadores: 2019 Venezuela Women’s Superleague Champions
Ferroviária arrive with great confidence for Libertadores. Less than two weeks ago, the team won the Brazilian Championship title after beating Corinthians on penalties. The achievement made Tatiele Silveira the first female coach to be Brazilian champion. After a few days of well-deserved break, the group came back with two reinforcements, Monalisa and the experienced Rosana, to pursue the continental title for the second time – they were champion in 2016.
“It will be the best Libertadores in history in terms of technical level, organization and money prizes. We are happy to participate in this edition after a great season, crowned with the Brazilian title. We have been very focused” said coach Tatiele, who pointed to the lack of records about women’s football.
“There are only a few images and broadcasts of South American games, but our staff is making their best to look for information that can help us on the field. Although, we know we have a strong opponent ahead us on group stage. Deportivo Cuenca (EQU) is used to the altitude and will be playing at home.”
Coach: Tatiele Silveira
Star Players: Luciana and Aline Milene
Way to Libertadores: Only fourth place in the 2018 Brazilian Championship, Ferroviária enter the competition after Rio Preto dismissed the team and Flamengo/Navy gave up playing the tournament for prioritizing the Military World Games
Mundo Futuro FC (BOL)
Mundo Futuro has qualified as Bolivia’s only team for the Libertadores Cup after winning the first edition of the Simon Bolivar championship in August against San Martín de Porres by 2-0. This amateur team already played the Cup in 2013, when they finished fourth, and in 2014.
Mundo Futuro’s Emilie Doerksen, Janeth Morón, Marilin Rojas also play with the national team. Morón was the official scorer of the Simon Bolivar Cup with 9 goals. In terms of pitch positions, Herman Melgar, their experienced coach with over 25 years in women’s football, likes the 3-5-2 pitch strategy as it’s different to all conventional planning.
Coach: Herman Melgar
Star players: Janeth Morón
Way to Libertadores: Simón Bolivar Cup champions
Group C: América de Cali (COL), Corinthians (BRA), Libertad/Limpeño (PAR), Ñañas (ECU)
América de Cali (COL)
Current champions of la liga in Colombia just three years after the club was founded. This was the third edition of the Colombian league. They beat Independiente Medillín for their first professional trophy in front of 28,000 spectators.
Andrés Usme has been in charge of the squad since they were founded and has successfully executed his steady process to success. There have only been five changes to the 18 player squad from their championship roster. This week, Las Escarlatas reinforced the team with four new signings.
Las Guerreras are looking to build on their 2018 success. Triumph from a Colombian team would establish a steady interest and demonstration of success of Colombian women’s football.
Coach: Andrés Usme
Star players: Jessica Caro García, Alejandra Ararat, Farlyn Caicedo
Way to Libertadores: 2018 Liga Águila Femenina champions
Corinthians seek their first title as an independent team; they won the tournament in 2017 when they partnered with Audax. The latter took part in last year’s Copa Libertadores due to bureaucratic issues with Conmebol leaving Corinthians out. The club is encouraged by a brilliant season so far, with 34 straight wins that earned them a place in the Guinness World Records.
The black-and-white team missed the chance to be a two-time Brazilian champion by losing to Ferroviária in September, but was able to go to both national and state championships finals. It’s considered one of the best women’s teams in Brazil, with several players at the national team and a game style that prioritizes ball possession and is very powerful in offense.
“In general, our preparation is the same as we work throughout the year. We have been very successful, played great football, and I am quite satisfied so far. Now, it’s a matter of adapting to the different styles of game we’re going to face. We have studied the opposing teams a lot to fit our football standard”, said the coach Arthur Elias. “The fans can expect a well played football.”
Coach: Arthur Elias
Star players: Tamires, Gabi Zanotti, Millene
Way to Libertadores: Won 2018 Brazilian Championship
The two teams Club Libertad and Club Sportivo Limpeño merged and became a unique team only in 2018, and are now playing Copa Libertadores for the third time. The team’s best result is obviously dated 2016 when Limpeño won the trophy scoring two goals, one by Liz Peña and one by Damia Cortaza, in the final game against the Venezuelan club Estudiantes de Guárico. The team manager at that time was Rubén Subeldía.
Midfielder Karina Vega told Sports Gazette “We [the team] believe we can win the second Libertadores trophy thanks to the technical qualities that each player of the squad has.”
She then added “Each game in the tournament is difficult. But the Brasilian team is definitely the most challenging one. I think they won 7 of the 10 editions of Copa Libertadores. We respect every team but we fear no one.”
Coach: Ariel Rivaldi
Star players: Karina Vega
Way to Libertadores: 2019 Torneo de Apertura champions
Ñañas, a team from Quito, was the runner-up of the Women’s Superleague and this year, as Ecuador is the host, the second qualified has also been allowed to play. The trainer, Francisco Ramírez, will have to face changes in the line-up due to defender Maria Pineda’s injury.
No new players have been included because of an Ecuadorian football law – which also affects Deportivo Cuenca; this has been discussed in the team, as the club founder and player Fernanda Vásconez expressed that “it’s an extra difficulty we face.” But overall, they are optimistic and aim at the Podium. Nevertheless, the team is only taking 18 of 20 players allowed, due to injuries.
Ñañas’ goal is well defended by Farissa Córdoba, also captain, who joined the team in March chasing her dream of winning a league outside her country, Panama.
Coach: Francisco Rámirez
Star players: Yosneidy Zambrano, Marjorie Sanchez
Way to Libertadores: Runner-up of Women’s Superleague
Group D: Independiente Medellín (COL), Municipalidad de Majes (PER), Santiago Morning (CHI), UAI Urquiza (ARG)
Independiente Medellín (COL)
Even though Independiente Medellín didn’t win the final of the Liga Águila against America de Cali, they will both represent Colombia in Copa Libertadores, together with Atlético Huila, the current champion. “It was a hard blow for the players, but they are concentrated to win the Cup,” says La Hora del Fútbol Profesional Colombiano, the media related to the team.
Women’s football isn’t at its best in the country, with no signs of organising a league for next year as La Hora del FPC told Sports Gazette, “although Colombia won the Panamerican Games, the situation is not good.”
The team hasn’t announced any new players to reinforce the game for the Cup. La Hora del FPC says the 20 main players will travel to Ecuador under Carlos Paniagua’s orders.
Independiente Medellín is linked to the club called Formas Íntimas, and has never participated with that name; nevertheless, Formas Íntimas was fourth in 2014, second in 2013 and third in 2009.
Coach: Carlos Paniagua
Star players: Laura Aguirre, Manuela Vanegas, Tatiana Castañeda, Oriánica Velasquez, Maireth Pérez
Way to Libertadores: Runner-up of Liga Águila
Municipalidad de Majes (PER)
Municipalidad de Majes is the only team representing Peru at the Women’s Libertadores 2019. The team was founded in 2012 and will play Libertadores for the first time in its history.
However, the road to their debut at the Libertadores 2019 has not been the best for Municipalidad. Since December 2018, when they won the title, the team has not played any official game and, despite the success of the team to qualify for this competition, the future is uncertain.
According to FutbolPeruano.com, there is aa possibility that the team will shut down, and this made the club’s road to Quito more challenging.
Coach: Ela Samayani
Star players: Milena Tomayconsa. Unfortunately for the team, she is injured and won’t be able to play. She has travelled with the team and is ready to support her teammates from the stands
Way to Libertadores: 2018 Women Peruvian Cup champions
Santiago Morning (CHI)
This is the team’s first appearance in the tournament after winning the 2018 league title. This was also their first league title since the Campeonato Nacional Femenina championship was established in 2008.
There are six players that participated in the 2019 World Cup and other players who have recently been called up or are playing for the youth national teams. There are two Haiti internationals, including the league’s leading goal scorer, Borgella Roselord, scoring 62 goals in their championship run.
Santiago Morning players became the first female footballers to sign a professional contract in Chile. The club has made huge advancements on women’s football and given the resources to the squad and notably, they have given back with results.
Not only for football, Santiago Morning are pioneers for the LGBT+ community as well. What started off as a new jersey for pride month, they have left the pride flag permanently on their jerseys and kit. The players and coaches are confident that their first appearance in the tournament will be a successful one.
Coach: Paula Navarro
Star Players: Karen Araya, Maria Jose Rojas, Borgella Roselord, Francisca Mardones, Su Helen Galaz
Way to Libertadores: 2018 Campeonato Nacional Femenina Champions
UAI Urquiza (ARG)
The only Argentine representative qualified for Libertadores after winning the national championship last season — the last amateur edition before women’s football became professional in the country last March.
The club goes to the competition in Ecuador with controversial memories from last edition and certain thirst for revenge: in 2018, they were beating Iranduba (BRA) 1-0 in the last match of the groups’ stage, which would get them to the next phase, but the referee added eight minutes and sanctioned a penalty for the Brazillians. The 1-1 tie eliminated Urquiza.
“The expectation is to go as far as possible. In their first participation, in 2015, Urquiza won a bronze medal and last year we would have achieved the pass to the final phase but unfortunately we failed to pass the tie in that game so commented against Iranduba”, said a spokeswoman for Urquiza.
Coach: German Portanova
Star players: Agustina Barroso, Dalia Ippólito and Mariana Larroquete
Way to Libertadores: Won first division of Argentine Championship in 2018/19