• Head coach Carlos Borrello has returned to the Argentina national team
  • It is two years since the Albiceleste last played
  • The focus is on playing more fixtures and strengthening the foundations of the women’s game

Two years and one month have passed since Argentina’s national women’s football team last played a fixture. It is a period of inactivity that has meant that, since June 2016, the country has been absent from the FIFA/Coca Cola Women’s World Ranking.

This is the same team that was ranked among the top 30 in the world only a decade ago, and that had consolidated its status as South America’s second strongest side behind Brazil.

Coach Carlos Borrello enjoyed a key role during that golden age of Argentinian women’s football. Now, following his productive first spell in charge of the national team, Borrello has been summoned to return to the fold in order to oversee a rebuilding process.

“It’s dangerous to go two years without playing,” Borrello told FIFA.com. His appointment was officially announced on 12 July, fully 722 days on from the senior team’s last match, a 2-0 defeat by Colombia at the Pan American Games in Toronto.

“The biggest problem is that the training process has been interrupted. But that’s also the beauty of the challenge ahead: we have to rebuild everything from scratch,” explained the 61 year-old coach, who has already started working with the senior team.

“Today, we don’t have a pool of players to feed into the U-17 side, and from there into the U-20 side, and from there into the senior team. That’s why our main priority is to get a clearer picture of all the players available around the country, because I also need to be working with the youth teams by October.”

Borrello’s first spell (2003-2012)

Borrello believes that the imminent launch of the National Championship is a step in the right direction. Unlike the existing Primera and Segunda Division tournaments, which only feature clubs from Buenos Aires and its surrounding area, clubs from all over the country will compete in the new championship.

“It’s a revolution, because it will consolidate all the good work that is already being done outside of the capital. It will be more competitive, and any team could qualify for the Copa Libertadores,” revealed Borrello. The coach led UAI Urquiza to two Primera Division titles, as well as a third place in the Copa Libertadores in 2015.

“What’s more, it will serve to motivate our footballers and inspire more girls to play. The pool of talent will therefore grow, and the players will arrive at the national youth teams better trained.”

However, time is already at a premium. In early 2018, Argentina will host the South American U-17 Championship, which will act as the qualifying tournament for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay. The country will also take part in the South American U-20 Championship in Ecuador, which will act as the qualifying tournament for the U-20 Women's World Cup in France.

“Qualification will not be easy, and my superiors know it. We hope to start seeing results by 2020. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t be fighting for qualification.”

Challenges ahead for the senior side
It is a similar story for the senior side. They will compete at the Copa America in Chile next April, where two and a half places at the Women's World Cup 2019 (a play-off will be contested between CONCACAF's fourth-placed team and CONMBEOL's third-placed team) and two places at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2020 will be up for grabs.

Nonetheless, Borrello sees cause for hope. “I have faith in the capacity of our footballers to close the gap that has opened up. I said as much to the group, and they understood. They want to make up for these two lost years, even if they know it won’t be easy.”

Argentina's players train in Ezeiza, near Buenos Aires

What does he mean by ‘gap’? “The rest of South America stole a march on us: while we weren’t playing, the others made good progress. Brazil used to be the big rivalry here, and otherwise we just had to focus on the World Cups. Now we need to regain our status in the region,” he explained, citing the advances made by Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.

In order to do so, the mantra is simple: compete, compete, compete. “That is where the players can put everything into practice and really progress: by playing an international fixture, under pressure, in front of a crowd. We can’t afford to arrive at tournaments under-prepared.”

“It also affects motivation levels, and of not just the players but the coaching staff too,” he added. “Because we also have to rebuild the confidence levels of a group of players who have not represented their country in over two years.”

For Borrello and Argentina, now is the moment to start making up for lost time.