The Spanish national team’s debut in the World Cup inches closer. Less than a week away from the start of the tournament, some questions start to surround ‘La Roja’. Alexia’s physical discomfort, the controversy around ‘The 15’ (a number that has decreased) and some decisions made by Jorge Vilda have taken the attention away from what is really important, football.
Spain arrive in Australia and New Zealand with very little expectations in terms of performance in the World Cup. The manager seems to settle with just advancing in the group stage, a goal that may seem a little unambitious. The opponents of the Spanish squad in Group C will be Costa Rica, Zambia and Japan. At first sight, none of them seem like a real threat.
The Spanish national team’s preparation has not been the greatest, as their last few tests have not been realistic (with the exception of the last set of games played against Denmark and Norway). It is tough to gauge the performance of the team when playing against less competitive squads like Panama, China or Vietnam, countries with minor women’s football development. These matches might have not been more than a confidence boost.
The biggest headache for Spain has been the controversy surrounding ‘The 15’ and the call-up list assembled prior to the World Cup. The return of Alexia Putellas, Jenni Hermoso, Irene Paredes, Aitana Bonmatí, Ona Batlle and Mariona Caldentey is a great news from a sporting point of view. However, there could have been more returning players like Sandra Paños or Laia Alexandri, who have inexplicably not been taken into account by the coach.
The best generation of players in Spain’s history will not play a propper World Cup because of their inability to solve a problem that everyone can see except for the Federation. It is inconcievable to have a World Cup without the best center-back in the world (Mapi León) or the greatest defensive midfielder (Patri Guijarro). A lack of self-criticism and ambition by the manager, who does not want to change his mind after winning meaningless matches.
With many unavailable players, Jorge Vilda has ‘made up’ another list that does not fully satisfy anyone. Without taking anything away from the ones that did make it, a lot of them are coming off a long-term injury or have not been bonified starters on their teams. The biggest nonsense has been to leave out Marta Cardona, Maite Oroz and Jana Fernández without a logical explanation. Still, the national team should be capable of achieving great things this World Cup.
One of the main surprises of the call-up list has been the inclusion of María Pérez. Out of Barcelona’s academy, she is still playing for Barça ‘B’ and has not had significant minutes with the first team. It is the case of a really promising player who fits perfectly in the defensive midfield of Jorge Vilda’s system.
She was not part of anyone’s expected list, but she could be the revelation of the tournament is she is given the chance. Vilda compared her with Sergio Busquets during his latest press conference. He could have drawn her similarities with Patri Guijarro, but chose not to do it as a result of the ongoing situation.
Alexia Putellas’ comeback has been long awaited in every sense of the expression. However, it seems like his sudden return might have been rushed. Barça made her return from injury as smooth as possible, but Spain’s management has not been the same as a result of her need of pace and fitness.
The appearance of new physical discomfort has set off the alarms, but the player has shut them down through her social media with the following message: “Starting the engine in New Zealand”. The squad needs her leader (that does not wear the armband) to do their best.
After everything that happened to Spain off the pitch, it is finally time to talk about football. Next Friday, July 21st, the spaniards will make their debut against Costa Rica at 9:30 (Spanish time). It will be the time to talk on the pitch. A good debut is crucial to gain momentum for the rest of the tournament.
It will not be easy whatsoever with nations like the USA, Germany or England, who are clearly one step above the rest. Let’s hope that the Spanish squad can play their best football and bring home the desired trophy.
Translated by Nuño Alonso.
Main image: @SEFutbolFem.