Sampedro: Winning is what counts

Las Rojitas’ run to the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 represents a landmark in the history of women’s football in Spain, where it is still something of a minority sport. Making only the country’s second FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance (the first coming at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Thailand 2004), the Spanish powered their way through the group phase and are now gunning for the medals, as captain Amanda Sampedro tells

“We are a team both on and off the pitch. That togetherness is our recipe for success and it makes everything much easier for us when we go out and play,” says the Spain skipper before explaining their approach to the game. “Our main philosophy is possession: we like to play good football and keep our shape.”

Winning is what counts and it really doesn’t matter who gets the goals. Even so, I’d like to get one before the tournament ends.

A tireless attacking midfielder who never stops running, Amanda is also a seasoned goalscorer, though she has yet to find the back of the net at Trinidad and Tobago 2010. “The goals haven’t come so far but I’m not going to get obsessed about it because that’s not good for the team,” explains the Atletico Madrid Feminas player, a self-confessed admirer of Real Madrid idol Cristiano Ronaldo. “Winning is what counts and it really doesn’t matter who gets the goals. Even so, I’d like to get one before the tournament ends.”

Ambitious as well as talented, Sampedro shows caution when asked to assess Spain’s chances of going all the way to the final: “All we’re thinking about right now is the semi. We need to focus on that game only and it’s best not to look too far ahead, but like any team that qualifies for a World Cup you obviously want to try and make the final. This is our debut here, though, and that means we have to take it one step at a time. So far we’ve achieved what we came here to do and things are going great.”

Close to glory If they are to make the final, Sampedro and her team-mates will have to fight their way past Korea Republic. “They are a good side: very strong in every department and very well balanced,” she comments, wary of the threat posed by the Taeguk Ladies. “They work hard on their tactics, and they like to play and let the opposition play too, which could work in our favour. If we can get out there and play our game, then we’ll have a chance.”

In the build-up to Tuesday’s showdown in Couva, the Spanish have been taking it easy between training sessions, visiting the famous Maracas Beach in the north of Trinidad and doing some window-shopping. Relaxed and full of confidence after a big win over Japan in the group phase and a quarter-final triumph over Brazil, Jorge Vilda’s team believe that their successes in the Caribbean will give the women’s game back home a major boost and also further their blossoming careers.

“Not everyone gets to play in a World Cup and it’s been a fantastic experience for us, one that’s very important for our futures,” says an appreciative Sampedro, before setting out her personal goals. “I want to keep on working towards the top. Hopefully one day I’ll make the full national team and reach another World Cup with them.”