Spain overcomes adversity and makes a good debut

Irene Paredes (d) celebrates her goal against Finland. / DAMIEN MEYER / AFP

European Championship

The weight of the absences and an initial goal from Finland did not decompose Jorge Vilda's team, capable of recovering to add their first victory

Jose Manuel Andres

Spain's first assault on the Women's European Championship was a test of maturity. There were a few blows in the days before the tournament: first the injury of Jennifer Hermoso, the starting forward, then that of the young and promising Salma Paralluelo and to finish off, the goodbye to the tournament and a good part of the next season of the best player of the world, Alexia Putellas. It is normal that so many setbacks made a dent in the spirit of a team that, to make matters worse, ran into a goal against as soon as the duel began against the a priori most affordable enemy of their group, Finland.

They looked rough, but that's where the spirit of overcoming emerged from a group of soccer players who have traveled to England to aspire to everything and take Spanish women's soccer to another level. The strength of the group was condensed in Mapi León's left-footed strike –a blessing for Spain– and the headers of Irene Paredes, Aitana Bonmatí and Lucía García. With their goals, they gave peace of mind and faith to start the European Championship on the right foot and dream of great feats in the tournament.

The beginning of Spain was a symptom of his intentions. Aitana, all quality, filtered a good ball for Esther's run, who arrived a second later than the Finnish goalkeeper. However, this promising start was cut short very soon, a long pass from Westerlund was interpreted perfectly by Sällstrom, the Spanish defense did not close well and the forward stood up to Sandra Paños, who put in the mitt but not enough to prevent the goal.

4
Spain

Paños, Ona Batlle, Paredes, Mapi León, Leila (Sheila García, min. 61), Patri Guijarro, Aitana (Athenea, min. 79), Irene Guerrero (Aleixandri, min. 61), Lucía García (Claudia Pina, min. 86), Esther (Cardona, min. 79) and Mariona.

1
Finland

Korpela, Hyyrynen (Kuikka, min. 67), Westerlund, Pikkujämsä, Koivisto, Engman (Sainio, min. 46), Alanen, Summanen (Ahtinen, min. 85), Öling (Rantanen, min. 87), Sällström and Franssi ( Danielsson, minute 85).

  • Goals:
    0-1: min. 1, Sällström. 1-1: min. 26, Walls. 2-1: min. 41, Aitana. 3-1: min. 75, Lucia Garcia. 4-1: min. 95, Mariona, from a penalty.

  • Referee:
    Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine). She admonished Paredes, for Spain, and Alanen, from Finland.

  • Incidents:
    Match of the first day in Group B of the Women's European Championship played at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes before 16,819 spectators.

The setback did not change the pace of Jorge Vilda's team in their attempt to break the rival from possession of the ball. Faced with the Nordic power in space, Spain touched the edge of the Finnish area. He was close to finding the equalizer after a cross to the far post by Mapi León, impeccable in hitting. Lucía combed her head but did not find a partner who would put the icing on the auction. The success was lacking in the last pass against the orderly and populated opponent's retreat.

Esther, always feisty, was the first to test Korpela's reflexes, who breathed a sigh of relief again after a long shot from Leila, licking the crossbar. She quickened the pace of La Roja, making more than enough merits for the draw. The script was already that of the harassment and knockdown at the door of Finland, so much so that Mariona ended up finding the way to the net, although the action was preceded by a ball that Esther rescued from beyond the baseline. A draw was sung that ended up arriving shortly after. From a set piece, in the umpteenth Spanish corner kick, Irene Paredes entered the header unstoppable. Korpela stayed half way out and the captain tempered the nerves of a team punished by misfortune up to that moment.

Mapi León's left foot

The balm of the match affected the domain of Spain. Only the Finnish team showed up in some other against, forcefully stopped by Mapi León, already definitively established as the leader of the Spanish defense. Vilda's team did not break down at any time despite the adversity and found the reward for its patience with a magnificent cross from Mapi León, another school left-handed shot that Aitana did well to put her on her head in the same squad and overtake to La Roja before the break.

Ona Batlle was able to put the victory on track after the break; Korpela denied it. Also Esther, but she shot high after a good blackboard play. Vilda pulled the bench to refresh her legs and Laia Aleixandri, one of her chosen ones, also had her head. Too much forgiveness that they put an end to between Mapi León and his blessed left leg, a new national nightmare in Finland, and Lucía García's header. The icing on the cake came with a penalty converted by Mariona and the feeling of duty accomplished. Injection of morale for a team that needed to heal on the green from so many injuries, making the injured Alexia smile in the stands. They wait for Germany and Denmark to continue dreaming.

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