Monday, October 3

Women’s Euro 2022 team guide No 8: Spain | Women’s Euro 2022


This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 16 countries who have qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 6 July.

Overview

Spain enjoyed an excellent qualifying campaign. La Roja booked their place by finishing top of Group D, six points ahead of the Czech Republic. No one could get close to the Spaniards. They registered seven wins, one draw and no defeats, scoring 48 goals and conceding just once. A team dominated by Barcelona players, it was one that the head coach, Jorge Vilda, sought to make more direct than usual. The style bore fruit in the form of big wins such as the 10-0 and 13-0 thrashings of Moldova and Azerbaijan respectively.

“We’re very happy and very proud of the work the players have put in,” Vilda says. “We’ve qualified for the biggest continental competition, the Euros. That’s an achievement. The way we managed it is also an achievement. There are high hopes for this team, and that’s all down to the way the players have performed. We’ve had good results, but I would say we’re contenders, rather than favourites. There are other teams that are favourites; I’ll leave that tag to them.”

Spain go into the Euros having already booked their ticket to the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year. For the last nine years, Spain have not missed a major finals, be it the Euros or the World Cup. Vilda’s side have also risen to seventh in the world rankings – their highest ever position. The likes of Irene Paredes, Jenni Hermoso, Patri Guijarro, Aitana Bonmatí, Sandra Paños and Alexia Putellas have taken Spanish women’s football to the next level. They are a team that commands respect, boasting major names known across Europe and the world. The arrival of Real Madrid’s team in 2020 has also played its part in the exponential growth of the women’s game in Spain. Despite losing Hermoso to injury before the tournament all the indications are that La Roja can have a big impact. England 2022 might just be the time and the place for that.

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The coach

Jorge Vilda took charge of Spain in 2015 after Ignacio Quereda was forced out following the World Cup in Canada. The 40-year-old previously worked with Spain’s age-group teams, coaching the Under-17s between 2010 and 2014, and the Under-19s between 2014 and 2015. Before his promotion to the senior job, he masterminded the Under-19s’ run to the final of the Uefa Women’s Championship. This will be his second Euros, while he also led Spain at the World Cup in 2019 – where they exited at the last-16 stage. He is the son of Ángel Vilda, fitness coach under Johan Cruyff at Barcelona. In 2018, he was among the 10 nominees for Fifa’s The Best Women’s Coach award.

Star player

Alexia Putellas is Spain’s major star. Right now, the Barcelona midfielder is the best player in the world. Her leading role in Barça’s 2021 Champions League victory catapulted her on to the global stage, and led her to scoop the Ballon d’Or and Fifa’s The Best Women’s Player award, as well as finishing top of the Guardian’s Top 100 list. At 28, Putellas pulls the strings for Spain in midfield and has a key influence on La Roja’s attack, chipping in with plenty of goals. She has just been named the Champions League player of the season, finishing as the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals.

Claudia Pina in action during the Arnold Clark Cup game against Germany at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. Photograph: George Wood/Getty Images

Wildcard

Clàudia Pina is Spain’s great hope for the future. Aged just 20, the forward is already a major figure in the Barcelona team and working hard to follow in the footsteps of her great idol, Putellas. Having made her debut for the Blaugrana at only 16, Pina then went on loan to Sevilla in order to continue her development. She returned to the Camp Nou a year later, and this season has established herself for club and country. Pina belongs to a generation of players that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2018. She was named the tournament’s best player and finished as joint-top scorer, and Vilda has followed her closely ever since.

Probable lineup

Spain women probable lineup

All-time hero

Vero Boquete has been the great trailblazer for women’s football in Spain. When the domestic top flight, the Liga Iberdrola, was still a pipe dream, the midfielder took the plunge and moved abroad. Tyresö (Sweden), the Utah Royals (NWSL), Bayern Munich and Frankfurt (where she won the Champions League in 2015), PSG, Milan … The list is long and now, at 35, she’s still going, at Serie A side Fiorentina. Her goal sealed Spain’s qualification for the 2013 Euros in Sweden. That is where the national team really began to grow, with Boquete as its captain and beating heart. She also led the team at their first ever World Cup, in Canada in 2015.

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Euros history

Spain have appeared at the Euros three times. They’ve never won it, or indeed reached the final. Their best performance to date came at their first Euros in 1997, where they made it to the semi-finals. It wasn’t until 2013 that La Roja returned to the finals, but they haven’t missed out since. They lost 3-1 to Norway in the 2013 quarter-finals, and fell at the same stage in the Netherlands four years later, losing to Austria on penalties. Now, though, Spain are a very different proposition, and look ready to make a deep run at a major tournament.

Realistic aim this summer

Spain’s first goal is to make it out of their group, having been drawn with Germany, Denmark and Finland. Second place may have to do in order to reach the knockout stages. Reaching the semi-finals for the first time in 25 years would be a dream outcome.

Amalia Fra writes for AS. Follow her on Twitter here.




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