Spain team guide Women’s Euro 2022: stars, players, coach, tactics, expectations...
An impressive qualifying campaign saw La Roja register seven wins, one draw and no defeats, scoring 48 goals and conceding just once.
Spain enjoyed an excellent Euro 2022 qualifying campaign. La Roja claimed an automatic spot at the tournament after 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 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: they’ll be one of 32 teams who go to Australia and New Zealand in 2023. It’ll be their third straight appearance at the tournament. 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 Fifa 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. All the indications are that La Roja can have a big impact. England might just be the time and the place for that.
EURO 2022 Group B:
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. He is the son of Ángel Vilda, who was fitness coach under Johan Cruyff at Barcelona. In 2018, he was among the 10 nominees for Fifa’s The Best Women’s Coach award.
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. No Spaniard had won either before. 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 Champions League Player of the Season, having finished as the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals.
Claudia Pina is Spain’s great hope for the future. Aged just 20, the forward is already a major figure in the Barcelona team and is working hard to follow in the footsteps of her great idol, Alexia Putellas. She made her debut for the Blaugrana at only 16, albeit she then had to go out on loan to Sevilla 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 Jorge Vilda has followed her closely ever since.
Starting line-up (4-4-2):
Sandra Paños, Olga Carmona, Irene Paredes, Mapi León, Leila Ouahabi, Patri Guijarro, Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmatí, Athenea del Castillo, Jenni Hermoso, Mariona Caldentey (injuries permitting)
Vero Boquete has been the great trailblazer for women’s football in Spain. When the Liga Iberdrola was still a pipe dream, the midfielder took the plunge and moved abroad to pursue her career. 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’s where the national team really began to grow, with Boquete as its captain and beating heart. She also captained the team at the country’s first ever World Cup, in Canada in 2015.
So far Spain have appeared at the Euros three times. They’ve never won it, or indeed reached the final. At the Spaniards’ first Euros, in 1997, they made it to the semi-finals. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that La Roja returned to the finals – at which point they established themselves on the European stage once and for all. They haven’t missed out since. They lost 3-1 to Norway in the quarter-finals in Sweden 2013, and fell at the same stage in the Netherlands four years later, against Austria. That year, their hopes of another semi-final were dashed when Silvia Meseguer missed her kick in a penalty shootout. Now, though, Spain are a very different proposition, as their all-time high Fifa world ranking illustrates.
Realistic aim for this summer
Spain’s goal is to make it out of their group – having been drawn with Germany, second place may well have to do – and then compete in the quarter-finals. Reaching the semi-finals would be a dream outcome.