Connect with us


Spain pursue World Cup history but Japan thrashing ‘left a mark’

Underfire coach Jorge Vilda says his Spain team will learn from their heavy defeat by Japan as they aim to make history by winning a Women’s World Cup knockout game for the first time against Switzerland on Saturday.

A Spanish side led by reigning Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas were seen as contenders coming into the tournament and started with two comfortable wins against Costa Rica and Zambia.

But they were torn apart 4-0 by Japan in their last outing, which meant they advanced to the last 16 in second place in their group and with doubts swirling about their ability to compete with the world’s best sides.

“The defeat the other day has not been forgotten and will not be forgotten,” Vilda said on the eve of the meeting with Switzerland in Auckland.

“Defeats like that leave their mark but are also necessary for a team’s development and growth. We just need to look at what we can improve and also at what we did well because there were some positives.”

This is just Spain’s second appearance in the knockout phase of the World Cup. In 2019 they reached the last 16 before going down 2-1 to eventual winners the United States, for whom Megan Rapinoe scored a late winner.

Last year they made it to the quarter-finals of the European Championship before losing in extra time to hosts England.

“The team is super-motivated and excited about the chance to make history and win a World Cup knockout tie for the first time,” said Vilda.

The 42-year-old has been under pressure since a group of 15 players announced last September they did not want to be selected for their country in a protest against the Spanish federation and Vilda himself.

‘Everything is possible’

Some have since returned to the fold, but the likes of Barcelona’s Patri Guijarro and Mapi Leon are not with the squad in New Zealand.

Vilda has a contract until 2024 but was twice forced in Friday’s press conference to dodge questions about whether a defeat against Switzerland would mean the end of the road for him.

He also refused to say if Putellas might get a full 90 minutes this time at Eden Park as she continues her recovery from a serious knee injury.

Her minutes gradually increased during the group stage until she played just over an hour against Japan.

Switzerland have never won a knockout tie in any major tournament and doing so here would be a huge boost for them as they prepare to host the next Euro in 2025.

They won their group ahead of Norway by scoring just two goals and conceding none.

Their attack features Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, who is a teammate of several Spain players at UEFA Champions League winners Barcelona.

“We played very well in the group stage. Of course we understand that Spain are one of the favourites, but for us everything is possible,” said Switzerland’s German coach Inka Grings.

The winners of Saturday’s tie will face either the Netherlands or South Africa in the last eight.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in Football