Navarro: I wanted to show what I could do

Lorena Navarro started the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 like a whirlwind, finding the net no fewer than five times in Spain’s opening match against the hosts and laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament. And yet, in the aftermath of that performance, the diminutive forward appeared to fade into the background.

Despite being included in La Rojita’s starting line-up versus New Zealand and Mexico, she was unable to regain her scoring touch, and since then she has had to content herself with a place on the bench. On Friday, during the match for third place against Venezuela, she was back to her dynamic best. “Today I really wanted to get out there and show what I could do,” she told with a broad smile on her face.

With the Spanish flag tied around her neck like a cape, the heroic striker was still visibly struggling to come to terms with her second-half hat-trick that took her tally for the tournament to eight, assured her of the adidas Golden Boot, and proved decisive in Spain’s 4-0 defeat of La Vinotinto, a result which equated to a well-deserved bronze medal at Jordan 2016.

“My goodness,” Navarro said, taking a deep breath before laughing out loud. “It’s just amazing. Scoring that many goals at the U-17 World Cup is a dream come true.” Although her joy was unbridled, there was no denying that the past couple of weeks, during which she went from cloud nine to warming the substitute’s bench, had been difficult for her.

“She’s been a bit despondent over the last few days, and we all tried to cheer her up,” confirmed her coach, Maria Is. “Today we knew we had to get her out on the pitch at some point, and that she would be all fired up at not having played much in the last couple of games. We suspected it might be her time to shine again.”

Motherly mentor Maria Is has been particularly attentive to Navarro, chatting with her and trying to keep her spirits up. “Generally, I like talking a lot with the girls,” she said, her maternal instincts shining through. “I told Lorena to remain calm, and that she would get some playing time before the end of the tournament. At the end of the day, I’m really fond of them all and I treat them as if they were my own daughters. That’s why making such decisions is hard.”

Consequently, the Spain coach was one of the first to leap off the bench in celebration each time Navarro found the net against Venezuela. “You just have to look at how we celebrated when she scored her first goal. We were all saying, ‘Come on, come on, give it to her’. We’re very happy.”

Navarro also recently received some welcome support from home. “My parents told me not to worry about it,” she said. “And that if I got the chance to play, I should give it everything I had.” And that is precisely what she did, coming off the bench at the start of the second half and taking just eight minutes to net her first goal of the encounter.

“I’m very grateful to my coach and all the backroom staff for treating me so well,” concluded the adidas Golden Boot recipient and U-17 World Cup bronze medallist, whose explosive goalscoring feats bookended the prestigious tournament in memorable style.