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Soccer - Chile primed for baptism of fire in France

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By Andrew Downie

(Reuters) – Chile head to their first women’s World Cup after a dismal run but the Chilenas, who face Sweden and the United States in their first two games, are adamant they are not going to France just to make up the numbers.

They have not won any of their five matches this year, with their last outing a 7-0 hammering by the Netherlands in April.

“It would be easy to drop our heads after the last result on FIFA match day but that would be like admitting defeat before we even walk out there,” forward Maria Jose Urrutia told Reuters.

“We’ve got a very difficult job ahead but anything can happen in a World Cup. We are motivated to do well.”

Chile have been handed a mammoth task, kicking off their campaign against 2003 World Cup runners-up Sweden before playing world champions the U.S. and Thailand.

The Chilenas were impressive in the South American qualifiers, winning three and drawing three, including a 4-0 victory over neighbours Argentina.

However, they have struggled since, scoring only four times in their last eight games, a statistic Urrutia admitted is worrying.

“I think in general we need to be stronger up front and take out chances,” she said. “But we need to be tight at the back too.”

Urrutia, who left her daughter in Chile to play in the Brazilian league for six months, knows what sacrifice means.

She is convinced the heartbreak of missing a fifth birthday and a first day at school will be worth it and she sees reason for optimism.

Three of their recent losses were against fellow qualifiers Italy and Jamaica (twice) and all were by a single goal.

A 1-1 draw last month against Scotland, another team playing in the tournament for the first time, was also an encouraging sign they may not be totally out their depth.

But the 25-year old dispelled any notion the runners-up in last year’s Copa America will go to France under a cloud, much less with any kind of damage limitation plan.

“A good result for us would be to get to the second round, we don’t want to make up the numbers,” she said in a phone call from the team’s training camp in Santiago.

“That kind of thinking, that we might not get past the first round or we will try not to lose too many goals, would be mediocre. We are going to take the game to them and try and win. Not getting beat is not what we’re going there for.”

(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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