Third team up in group B is Spain, who were the first team in Europe to qualify (after the hosts France) for the tournament, and La Roja are a force to be reckoned with, despite not being a frequent sight at the World Cup.
It’s only the second tournament that Spain has managed to qualify for, their first being Canada 2015, but they put in a stellar performance on the qualification road to breeze through, winning all of their eight games – scoring 25 goals and only conceding two. A very strong performance by a national side that enjoyed a rebirth with the introduction of coach Jorge Vilda after the World Cup in 2015. This success has been mirrored throughout the age groups, and Spain is currently one of the most successful youth teams around the place. In 2018, both their U-17 and U-19 teams grabbed a continental title each, they won the U-17 World Cup and finished runners-up in the U20 World Cup.
Marta Torrejón is the captain of the team, with a wealth of experience despite only being 28 years old, and the defender will be an asset, leading her team in this tournament, having featured in Spain’s Euros campaign in Sweden 2013, as well as the World Cup in 2015 and the Euros 2017. Another stand-out defender is Irene Paredes, who is the second top scorer in the team with four goals. Alexia Putellas and Patri Guijarro, with two goals each in the qualification phase, are the driving force of La Roja’s midfield. Putellas is the creative one in the team, who creates chances and sets her teammates up for goals but is more than capable of finding the net herself. Guijarro is, despite only being 20-years-old, extremely promising and already a very complete player who can move between her attack and defence effortlessly and link up well with her teammates. Jennifer Hermoso has been on fire in the attack and during qualification, she scored seven goals in eight games.
Vilda has, as previously mentioned, forced through a reinvention of the team after he took over in 2015. The Spanish coach made sure to bring in new players as well as adding in tactical changes which have paid off big time. His team won the Algarve Cup in 2017 and finished in the last eight in the European Championships 2017. Since Vilda took over the team he has focused on injecting his new ways into the team and build it up with new tactics and a new formation, and during the qualification to the World Cup 2019, he used different formations like a 4-1-4 and a 3-3-3-1, but the most reoccurring one is the 4-3-3.
It is not an understatement to say that La Roja was transformed under the leadership of Vilda. The previous manager, Ignacio Querada, coached the team for 27 years, and although he never had any success to speak of (no qualification for either the Olympics nor the World Cup before 2015), he was left to his own devices, and nothing was done until all of the players released an open letter requesting that the manager was fired. Days after their failure to advance out of the group stage in the World Cup in 2015, the whole squad came out and declared that they wanted to see the manager relieved of his duties, and testimonies of the poor preparations ahead of the World Cup, his outdated methods and the way that he treated players all came to light. He’s said to have referred to his players as “chavalitas” (rough translation: immature little girls) or “niñas” (little girls), as well as calling them fat when he deemed their fitness to be insufficient, shouted at them (to the point where the person would break out in tears) and forbidding them to speak out to the media, amongst other things. But since Vilda took over, the team has been allowed to flourish and realise their potential, which is evident by the results they’ve managed to produce, in all age groups.
Spain played two friendlies in January, one against Belgium that saw them draw 1-1, and one against the US where they lost 0-1. In both games Vilda decided to go with the 4-3-3 formation and, looking to the results, Spain is onto something. They’ll also be taking part in Algarve Cup, that starts on the 27th of February, and Spain will be playing against the Netherlands and Poland, hoping to secure advancement in the tournament, and it’ll be yet another great opportunity for the team to make the final preparations ahead of the World Cup.