Mistrató to Munich: Ana María Guzmán was born to be a big game player

The 18-year-old Colombian has signed with Bayern Munich after impressing for her national team at youth level and the 2023 World Cup.

Mixed zones can be funny places.

Time can stand still. Time can practically stop dead.

And the same is true for footballers. Some root themselves to the spot, embracing the hoards of intrepid journalists and broadcasters. Others are ghostly, hovering through without a trace.

At the 2023 World Cup, one of the longest mixed zones sessions I saw of any player at the entire tournament was Ana María Guzmán. The 18-year-old Colombian must have spent 20 minutes or more with media members from around the globe after her country lost 2-1 to England in the Quarterfinals.

What was so striking, though, wasn’t so much that she was generous with her time but the way she appeared so comfortable and so natural. One could easily have mistaken the mixed zone for the Guzmán zone. Her living room, her place. She called on journalists to ask if they had any other questions.

And this was all after being eliminated from the competition. Guzmán was happy to share her disappointment as well as her joy with whoever wanted to hear about it.

Mistrató to Munich

On Tuesday, Bayern Munich announced that the young Colombian full-back had signed for the German champions on a four-year deal (until the end of the 2026-27 season).

“It's unbelievable, it's a dream come true for me to be able to play for such a fantastic team. There are many excellent players in this team from whom I can learn a lot - on and off the pitch,” beamed Guzmán.

She is following in the footsteps of teenage countrywoman Linda Caicedo who moved to Real Madrid from Colombia back in January also aged 18. As well as joining Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez, 28, in Germany, where she has played for Werder Bremen since the start of last season.

The significance of young Colombians making big moves to Europe is not lost on Guzmán. On Tuesday, the defender said that she hoped her move could be “an inspiration for many players in Colombia can fulfill their dreams.”

Born in Mistrató, Guzmán was 11 when she left her hometown in 2016 to better her football career by joining Club Atlético Dosquebradas in the city of Pereira. In 2021, she received her first senior call-up to the Colombia national team.

In 2022, she moved to city rivals Deportivo Pereira and signed her first professional contract. In her one season with Los Matecañas, she appeared 21 times for the club in the Colombian first division.

Ana María Guzmán in Bayern Munich’s home kit | Bayern Munich Frauen

Guzmán played in three World Cups in less than 365 days. A lot has been written about the young Colombian side that was one of the best sides at the 2023 World Cup. The core of breakthrough players cut their teeth by finishing second at the U17 World Cup and reaching the Quarterfinals of the U20 edition. Unsurprisingly, that is where Guzmán first caught Bayern’s eye.

“We have followed her performances at the Youth World Championships, at the U20 and U17 levels. She impressed us very much back then. And recently their performances were very convincing not only in the Colombian league but also at the World Cup,” said Francisco De Sá Fardilha, Bayern’s women’s technical director.

Big player energy

Just like her confidence and calm in the spotlight of the mixed zone, there was something so striking about Guzmán’s senior debut for her country in Australia.

With starter Daniela Arias suspended through yellow card accumulation, the defender born in Mistrató came into the starting XI to make her debut in the Round of 16 match against Jamaica.

Guzmán finished the match with a clean sheet and an assist and helped deliver arguably the biggest goal in Colombia’s women’s World Cup history (although Caicedo’s winner against Germany might just take the biscuit).

The cross for Catalina Usme’s winning goal was ice-cold and perfectly weighted. You wouldn’t think it was from a player who only had 50 minutes of senior international football under their belt.

When the ball comes to Guzmán she knows exactly the danger area, and the timing of her teammate’s run. Technically well hit, but the telepathic sync-up with Usme is what creates the space and the goal.

You could have been forgiven for thinking that Guzmán was a seasoned operator at this level.

In the next match, against England, Guzmán was dropped back down to the bench and Arias was reinstated to the starting XI. Sometimes, it is not the done thing to rush young players into too much action.

However, one doesn’t always get to choose these things. And a bad-looking knee injury to Carolina Arias in the opening moments meant that Guzmán quickly entered the Quarterfinal against the Lionesses after just 10 minutes.

Now don’t tell the Australians this, but I would have to say that the most intense environment I experienced in Sydney was when Colombia played England. In terms of creating atmosphere, noise and intimidation for 90 minutes; no one was as palpable as the Colombians.

That cauldron - albeit a pro-Colombia one - didn’t phase the 18-year-old substitute. She didn’t need any time at all to acclimate to the match and quickly crashed into a shoulder to shoulder with Rachel Daly and got the better of the physical English forward. Not long after, Guzmán was lucky to get away with a probably foul on Lauren Hemp from clumsy coming together.

Guzmán didn’t bat an eyelid. She shone in a bruising encounter with the European champions.

And even though Colombia would go on to lose the match, after being held off at arms length and struggling to create chances in the English box, the two performances became a calling card for a player who looked ready for the next stage.

Coming up in Germany

A mere six weeks on from her World Cup debut, the move to Munich is exactly that.

The Colombian will be competing against Austrian Katharina Naschenweng and German Giulia Gwinn for a starting spot on the flanks of Munich’s defense. Two full-backs who are much closer to their prime.

Naschenweng only just arrived at Bayern from Hoffenheim, while Gwinn has been a staple but missed significant time with an ACL injury in 2022. There’s also long time wide player Maximiliane Rall in the defensive rotation, along with Tuva Hansen and Carolina Simon.

At the club level this will be a new experience. Waiting to bide your time to break in and not being thrust into a big workload. But at the national team level, Guzmán is used to being included and happy to wait her turn to have an impact.

While Guzmán’s ability and temperament means it feels like she could quickly become a starter for a major European club. Patiently building a player up so that they are ready for sustainable success is no bad thing.

Having signed after the end of the European transfer window, Guzmán will have to wait until January to make her debut for Bayern. But that will give her plenty of time to get used to the culture of her new home. Both on the pitch, and off of it.

The teenager from Mistrató is one of the most exciting players to keep an eye on over the next 12 months. Next time you watch her play, you will notice that she is born for the big time, and the spotlight.