Gold the goal for Eva Navarro
Still only 17, Uruguay 2018 will be her third Women's World Cup
Won silver at this year's U-20 Women's World Cup and gold at European U-17s
La Rojita among the favourites for the U-17 Women's World Cup title in Uruguay
It is a 90km drive from Yecla to Alicante in the southeast of Spain, and it is a road that Eva Navarro and her father drove back and forth four times a week for the last four years. “We know the route like the back of our hand,” the captain of Spain’s U-17 team told FIFA.com with a laugh.
Those countless hours were spent driving to training at second division side Sporting Plaza de Algiers, for whom Navarro played until this season. “I even did my homework and studied in the car,” she said. Getting home around midnight meant it was straight to bed for the teenager, who had to be at school for 8am the following morning.
But all that sacrifice and hours on the road have been worth it. And while a 15-year-old Navarro featured at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Jordan 2016, scoring three goals en route to the bronze medal, 2018 would seem to be ‘her’ year.
Eva Navarro’s 2018
May: scores twice in the final of the UEFA Women’s U-17 Championship to secure the title for La Rojita.
July: signs for Levante UD, one of the most storied clubs in the Spanish women's league.
August: takes silver with Spain at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France, playing every game.
November: La Rojita begin their FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup campaign on the 13th of the month in Uruguay.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, my level of anticipation ahead of the World Cup in Uruguay is a 10. We really want it to be here already,” said Navarro with a contagious smile that typifies her almost as much as her on-field pace and skill in one-on-ones.
Eva Navarro fact file
Born on 1 January 2001, she tends to play on the right wing
She has two brothers, with the eldest playing for Yeclano in the Spanish third division
As a young girl, she used to play in three teams at the same time: a boys seven-a-side outfit, a boys futsal team and a girls futsal team
She has been playing for Spain in age-category teams since she was 14
Her principle role models are Andres Iniesta and her Levante team-mate Sonia Bermudez
The main aspects of her game she would like to improve? “All my coaches tell me I need to believe in myself a bit more and shoot more often.” That advice is unsurprising when you consider one of her strikes in this year’s European U-17 final was voted the third best goal of the season in a UEFA.com vote.
This gifted wide player is not shy about sharing how she would like to close out what has already been a magical 2018. “As I’ve already said, in Jordan it was the bronze, in France the silver... so in Uruguay, it must be the turn of gold.” And though she says this with a laugh, the player is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead. “We’re really motivated but also under a little pressure because our group isn’t going to be easy and any of the teams could make things hard for us. Even if people are saying that we’ll start as favourites, the team is very level-headed.”
From little kid to veteran Navarro becomes suddenly serious when the talk turns to the important role she will have to play at Uruguay 2018. Aside from being one of the leaders in the side, the fact that this will be her third Women's World Cup brings with it a level of responsibility for which she feels prepared. “The U-20 World Cup taught me a lot, both personally and in terms football, so I believe I can contribute a lot to the team.” And not just her. Cata Coll and Claudia Pina were also with Navarro in France and will be two other important pillars in this exciting Rojita side.
“As veterans, it is down to us to draw on our experience to take the team forward, so they never consider giving up.” Does part of that include telling your team-mates how a Women's World Cup is and helping to calm nerves? The smile on Navarro returns. “Yes, some have asked us what the experience is like because many have never played at a World Cup before and have that nervousness you’d expect. So yes, they ask you how is this or that thing...”
Navarro fully intends to draw on her own experience come November. “When I went to the U-17 World Cup in Jordan, I was one of the younger girls and didn’t expect to play as much as I did. So now, I tell the same girls to work hard and give absolutely everything in each game or training session because those squad members who might not play much could be called on at any time and perhaps decide a game.”
Uruguay 2018 is just around the corner, and so too perhaps is the realisation of a golden dream for the Spanish captain. “At the start of 2018, my goal was to win everything...” So far, things have gone pretty well, but can she finish on a high and end the year as world champion?