There are few people in the world who can claim to have beaten the mighty Argentina side in a Pan American tournament, but Chile’s Manuela Urroz is one such person. The Chilean stalwart was part of the squad that beat Argentina and made it to the Pan-Am Junior Cup final in 2008.
Looking back, Manuela says: “I have the best memories from my two Pan American Junior Cups. For the first one I was barely 17, so everything was new for me. We had a great tournament beating Argentina for the first time in history and we reached the final. Although we lost the that game against USA, it was amazing to play a Pan American final. We worked hard for that.
“My second Pan American Junior Cup was in Guadalajara in 2012. This was very different as I was far more experienced. I became 21 during the tournament and had played more than 50 matches with the senior squad. I tried to share that experience with the younger players.”
With the women’s Hockey Junior World Cup taking place in Santiago, the young Chilean side will have all the benefits of a vociferous home crowd. This is something Manuela sees as a real plus: “I've been lucky to play two big tournaments at home: the pre-World Cup Qualifier in 2009 and the South American Games in Odesur in 2014. It was exciting and very special to have my family and friends cheering for us.”
Chile came fourth in 2012 and, although it wasn’t the result the team wanted, there was a silver lining for Manuela as she finished top scorer.
Now a seasoned international, Manuela made her debut for the junior team at the 2008 Pan American Cup. The 17 year old took to the pitch against Trinidad and Tobago in a state of nerves and excitement, but she quickly settled into the match and scored the opening goal in a 5-0 rout against their Pan American rivals.
It was just one year later that Manuela made her debut for the senior squad. This was against the much higher ranked South African team in the Champions Challenge 1, a match that Chile lost 1-0. This was two months after Chile had contested the Hockey Junior World Cup in Boston – where they finished 12th out of 16 teams.
Manuela, who has 145 senior caps for her country, now plays her club hockey in Belgium for Royal Antwerp Hockey Club. She says that her experiences with the junior side gave her a great grounding for her senior career. She said: “For my first senior matches I was really excited and open to learn about everything.
“I felt lucky to be sharing the pitch with players and a team that had been fighting together for years to achieve the same purpose. It wasn’t difficult to become part of it as all the seniors helped a lot. The main difference between junior and senior level is that higher level of professionalism that the senior players and staff bring to the team.”
Chile come to the Junior World Cup with some serious levels of experience under their belts. Manuela singles out a few players she thinks will make a big impact for the home side: “I think Denise Krimerman will be the leader and a player to watch with her strong passes and great defensive play. Also, up front Josefa Salas and Kim Jacob have senior experience and are skillful in front of goal.”
You can follow Manuela Urroz on twitter: @ManuUrroz