A low-cross came in from the right flank. It was more a hopeful pass that got a deflection of a Chinese defender and then a hand from the goalkeeper before hitting the post. By all means, there should have been no danger from that position, but the Chinese were caught ball-watching. Linda Caicedo started her run from outside the box, casually drifted past one frozen defender, picked up the pace after sensing the opportunity, darted past another defender and tapped home the rebound.

A few minutes later at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, another cross came in from the right. This time Caicedo was the intended target. She back-tracked a bit to get enough space, controlled the ball, aimed, and then hit a shot that found the gap between three Chinese defenders and the goalkeeper to help give Colombia a 2-0 win against China in the Fifa U17 Women’s World Cup.

On both occasions, Caicedo was the only player who could have scored those goals in the way that she did – making a potentially difficult exchange look so comfortable.

It’s easy to understand why, and how, she could remain so composed. After all, the 17-year-old is captain of the U17 team, plays for the Colombian U20 squad, and is also a mainstay in the senior national team.

Linda Caicedo (jersey No 11) during the match against China

So much so that at the Copa America Femenina in July this year, she helped her country reach the final and ended the tournament with the Golden Ball (the Player of the Tournament award).

“It’s been amazing to play in all categories for my national team,” she said to Scroll.in in the mixed zone after Colombia’s opening match at the U17 World Cup – a 1-0 loss to Spain.

“I play with my heart, and give all I can for the national team.”

Fifa U17 Women’s World Cup: Defending champions Spain ride on technical superiority in winning start

Born in Cali, Caicedo comes from a family where she’s the only one to play professional sport. She started off playing in a boy’s team since there were no girl’s squads in her locality. But she soon started to make a name for herself with her quick feet, strength, and pacy runs.

Her rise up the ladder was so rapid that she made her professional debut as a 14-year-old. But her talent was far too immense to keep her on the bench in that debut season.

She made her mark immediately, scoring an impressive goal in her debut match – weaving her way through four defenders before slotting the ball past the goalkeeper.

That year, 2019, she helped her club win their first ever Liga Femenina Profesional de Fútbol Colombiano (Colombian Women’s Football League) title. She won the league title again last year, with Deportivo Cali, and finished as runner-up earlier this year.

But now she’s got her eye set on another big prize, in India.

Against Spain, she caused the defending champions all sorts of trouble with her mazy runs down the flank – despite picking up a slight strain on her leg. Against China though, there was no stopping her as she scored a brace to help take her country to the top of Group C.

She led from the front in that match, redeeming the faith that coach Carlos Paniagua showed in her by making her the captain.

“He saw in me a leadership. It’s an honour for me to be the captain in a World Cup,” she said.

“(My family at home too are) really happy, they’re very proud of me. They say that it’s a dream to be a captain at a World Cup.”

There are many miles and years ahead for the dancing feet of Caicedo on the football pitch. But the talented youngster – a vital cog in the senior national team, let alone the junior side – has already covered more ground than any of her peers at this world event in India.