The Women’s Under-20 World Cup Final didn’t turn out as we had all hoped – Japan beat us 1-3 and were deserved winners. Perhaps that at this moment, that will come as little consolation to our players, who I'm sure will feel deflated after going into the game with their hopes high. But they are returning home from the World Cup with the silver medal and in time, they will realize what a great achievement that is. No doubt it will really sink in how well they have done as soon as they touch down on home soil. Because they did exactly what they set out to do – elevate the profile of Spanish women’s football, which has taken a while to get up and running but is growing at such a rate that it is now regularly enjoying success stories like this U20 tournament. Make no bones about it – in any sport, winning a silver medal in a world cup is a tremendous feat.
Two excellent finalists
It’s clear that Spain’s Under-20s play good football – so do their rivals last night, Japan. Spain had the better start to the game but went in at half-time trailing 0-1 – the opening goal was a fine, long-range shot which just evaded our excellent goalkeeper Cata Coll. It was a body blow from which the team was still reeling from in the second half. By the time Japan had made it 0-3, we feared our team could be heading for a heavy defeat. But they took stock and readjusted, pulled a goal back and moments later struck the bar – had that entered, it would have been 2-3 and we might have been looking at a sensational turnaround. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Football games are decided in fleeting moments and in this case, it was Japan who ended up on top. But our girls managed to revitalize and add emotion to a final which they had been losing 0-3 and could so easily have ebbed away from them.
Great boost for Spanish women's football
The team’s character and performance was the only happy news at the end of a week during which Spanish football was rocked by the dispute between LaLiga and the AFE over the proposed match in the United States as well as the eternal debate as to whether Real Madrid need to bring in a proven goal scorer or not, and the chances of them actually signing one. So it was a relief to have some happy news from Brittany where in terms of television ratings, Spain’s Women’s Under-20s drew a larger audience share with their final against Japan than the televised LaLiga games, and in the process made a whole nation feel proud. Even the Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez travelled to northern France to attend the game alongside RFEF President Luis Rubiales. Our girls are coming home with the silver medal and perhaps more importantly, their achievements represent another huge leap forward for women’s football in our country.