In their first World Cup, La Roja have a great chance to succeed in Canada where their male counterparts failed miserably in Brazil. Spain’s flowing, fun-to-watch style is likely to make them one of the most exciting debutant teams in this expanded tournament, and should carry the Spaniards out of Group E.
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Goalkeepers: Ainhoa Tirapu, Dolores Gallardo and Sandra Paños
Defenders: Celia Jiménez, Leire Landa, Melanie Serrano, Ruth García, Ivana Andrés, Elixabet Ibarra, Marta Torrejón and Irene Paredes
Midfielders: Virginia Torrecilla, Jennifer Hermoso, Marta Corredera, Victoria Losada, Silvia Meseguer, Alexia Putellas and Amanda Sampedro
Forwards: Natalia Pablos, Sonia Bermúdez, Verónica Boquete, Priscila Borja and Erika Vázquez
It feels counterintuitive that a nation that looks like it’s finally taking a long-overdue leap forward is doing so under the guidance of a manager who has been in charge for nearly 30 years. Having been hired in 1988, Ignacio Quereda’s tenure as coach began before more than a third of his players were even born. While Quereda has had some success with the Spanish women’s team on a big stage, leading them to third place in the 1997 Euro, it’s been a long time since that high-water mark. Suggestions that a replacement is needed in Spain’s technical area will be tested this summer.
Group E schedule
June 9: vs. Costa Rica in Montreal
June 13: vs. Brazil in Montreal
June 13: vs. South Korea in Ottawa
How they qualified
In 2011, Spain enjoyed a strong World Cup qualifying campaign, but was undone by a loss and a draw to England, the only better team in their group. In 2015 qualifying, the Spanish had learned their lesson, and took four points from two games against Italy, the only higher-ranked team in UEFA’s Group 2. That 0-0 draw was the only blemish on a qualifying run of nine wins out of 10, wherein Spain scored 42 goals, conceding only twice.
A tactically sound team that plays the same flowing, geometric tiki-taka style as their male counterparts, this will be a different kind of team from the many nations at the tournament that will drive straight ahead, seemingly reliant on athleticism alone. As American midfielder Megan Rapinoe has stated, this is a team that can pick apart and break down a defence.
The difficulty in being reliant on the kind of intricate style Spain plays is having a Plan B for when it isn’t working—and there is the risk of their possession-heavy style not working perfectly. It’s one thing to pass your way clean through weak teams in qualifying; quite another to reduce the best players on Earth to pylons. La Roja isn’t the kind of team that can default to a more physical style, so when the going gets tough—and it will—we’ll see how they respond.
Player to watch
As leading scorer and captain, Veronica Boquete is the undisputed leader of this Spanish team. In her central attacking midfield/false-nine role the lady they call “Vero” has bagged 29 goals in 42 appearances for La Roja, complementing her scoring prowess with creative flair. As for her current form, she’s just finished a stellar season leading her club, German side FFC Frankfurt, to a Champions League title.
How will their debut World Cup go? Given their group, it’s hard to see the Spaniards failing utterly, but there’s always the chance of big stage jitters overtaking a team that has no senior-level world-class tournament experience.
World Cup history
Spain has never qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It will make its tournament debut this summer in Canada.