Japan forwards Haruna Kawashima and Chika Kato will probably never forget the name Dolores Gallardo. In the first 15 minutes of the young Nadeshiko’s opening match at Trinidad and Tobago 2010 against Spain in Couva, Gallardo denied the strike duo with three stunning saves to keep her goal intact and lay the foundations for an emphatic 4-1 win.
Just for good measure and with the result already beyond doubt, the Roja custodian frustrated her opponents further with two equally unlikely point-blank stops in the closing stages. “We knew we were in for a tough game and we were anxious to get out there and get going. We were pretty excited too and naturally we were delighted with the result,” the Spanish No1 told FIFA.com after her productive afternoon’s work. “It’s my job to keep the goals out, and things went well for us because we were focused and motivated.”
Gallardo’s love of the game dates back to her school days, when she started playing with her friends and quickly realised she wanted to take it further. After impressing in a boys’ team, Sevilla offered her a place in their women’s side, where she has remained ever since. “Women’s football isn’t very popular in Spain but my family has really supported me and made a lot of sacrifices so I can play,” she explained. “Obviously they’re as excited and delighted as we are now, sending us their support from home and urging us to go on and achieve something big.”
A goalkeeper by chance rather than design, Gallardo soon showed she was born for the position, honing her game and modelling herself on Villarreal shotstopper Diego Lopez. Even so, she is well aware of the pitfalls of the trade: “You know that if you make a mistake, it’s a goal for the other team. It’s tough to pay such a high price for your errors.”
It is that side to goalkeeping that makes psychology a key part of her training schedule: “If you don’t have that mental strength, then it doesn’t matter how strong and agile your legs are. Getting your head right is absolutely fundamental.”
Possessing a maturity beyond her 17 years, Gallardo’s next assignment is to thwart a Venezuela side on a high after coming from behind to defeat New Zealand in their Group C opener. “They battle hard and are very committed,” she said. “They give it their all in every challenge and they’re sure to make life very hard for us.”
Among the Vinotinto players who caught Gallardo’s eye as she watched them down the Kiwis was Ysaura Viso, the scorer of both Venezuela’s goals in that game. “She’s a very quick striker who’s good at finding space for herself,” the keeper commented appreciatively. “Provided we can stay organised at the back though, I don’t think she’ll be able to cause us problems. We have to try and make sure she doesn’t see much of the ball.”
“A World Cup is special competition to play,” continued the smiling Gallardo, summing up the importance of the occasion for her and her colleagues. “It’s the biggest thing you can aspire to with your national team and it’s a lovely feeling to be up there with the best in the world.”