Behind every good attack is a solid defence, or at least that is the established football wisdom, and in the case of Spain’s squad at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, it all starts with the safe hands of keeper Maria Quinones. Indeed, at the base of an attacking ensemble that has netted seven goals in three group games is a composed custodian who has conceded just twice.
“Everything we’ve achieved has been the result of the work put in by the whole team, it’s not just what’s happened in goal,” said Mariasun to FIFA.com. “It’s true that we have to keep playing like this [at the back], because we’ve already shown that by playing as a tighter unit, with the centre-backs and full-backs closer together, we can better cover our backs from the counter-attacks our opponents might launch. And I think that needs to be the way forward for us.”
A commanding presence, a good organiser of her defence and solid in aerial situations, Mariasun displays a level of maturity uncommon in one so young. This valuable commodity arguably comes from being raised in a sporting family, having lived and breathed football from a tender age.
“My sister Nekane plays football too, but in midfield, so it’s something that we talk to each other about a lot,” Mariasun explained. “I tell her things about the position she plays, from my perspective, and she gives me tips about mine. It’s really rewarding to have someone close-by who plays further forward and can give you an insight into how a midfielder thinks.”
Lessons in defeat
La Rojita’s campaign here in PNG could barely have got off to a better start, with a 5-0 thrashing of Canada and a 1-0 victory over always powerful Japan. In their final group game, however, they suffered a first defeat, going down 2-1 versus Nigeria. “Nigeria are a very quick, very powerful side and in the end that paid off. They got behind our defence a few times: some of those times we could snuff out the danger and on others we couldn’t.”
That slip-up meant Pedro Lopez’s charges qualified only in second place in Group B, their ‘reward’ a quarter-final clash with fellow contenders Korea DPR. Mariasun can certainly expect a busy day against the North Koreans, who remain unbeaten at Papua New Guinea 2016.
“We have to stay on the course we’ve been following up to now,” said the gifted goalkeeper, on 24 November’s crunch clash. “Our football’s all about one-touch stuff and keeping our opponents on the move. We can’t let them get comfortable. On the contrary, it needs to be us who are comfortable by having the ball where we want it. We’re not as physical as other teams, but we do have enough technical ability to help us continue progressing in this competition.”