Spain’s defenders on a mission

Spain’s meeting with Brazil on Saturday is a final come early for La Roja following their opening-day draw against Costa Rica in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.

Leading the Brazilian challenge, as always, will be five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta, who also happens to be the leading scorer in the history of the Women’s World Cup.

Sitting down to discuss the challenge of negating the threat posed by the Brazilian and her fellow Canarinha stars with were three members of the Spanish back-line.

“We’ve been analysing the game and we have to pay close attention to the gaps they’ll try to create,” said versatile defender Marta Torrejon.

“We need to keep a really close eye on their midfield, which is very dynamic. I’m not going to tell you any more though,” she added, flashing a smile.

One Spain player with more information than most on the magical Marta is her former Tyreso team-mate and close friend Veronica Boquete.

As Torrejon revealed, the Spain players have already spoken about the threat she and Brazil’s other established stars pose: “We’ve mainly discussed the fact that we have to watch all their veteran players. They’ve got bags of experience and the skill to decide matches with the smallest of details.”

“Their experience gives them something extra but they’ve also got a tremendous amount of quality too. And not just Marta. They’re very strong in every department,” said centre-half Ruth Garcia, giving her view on Saturday’s opponents.

“They’re physically strong and very well organised. They like to have the ball and they know what to do with it, and they express the same kind of joy through their play as the men’s team does.”

Making a sacrifice The Brazilians, coached by Vadao, enjoyed a lengthy training camp at the start of the year, a get-together that has helped them function better as a team, as Irene Paredes, another member of the Spain rearguard, acknowledged.

“You can tell. Things like that help you build up a better understanding with your team-mates. They make everything work better. We’ve managed to become a pretty well-drilled team but obviously it’s not the same.”

The Athletic Club Neskak player added: “Training four days a week is not the same as training every day. It’s not the same to devote your energies just to training as it is to have to go to class or work and then go and train. The physical and mental demands are different. It’s a burden.”

The Spain trio know all about those demands. Paredes is training to become a PE teacher, while Garcia is studying Physiotherapy and Torrejon Biology.

“We put a lot of effort into trying to be professional but then you come here and you’re up against people who do nothing else but this, and you can tell,” explained Torrejon.

“We’ve still got every faith in the work this team does, though,” added her Barça team-mate Garcia. “It’s taken us this far, after all. We’re grounded but we’re confident and we’ll do what it takes to win.”

Changed days Garcia also happens to be a taekwondo black belt, but gave up the martial art to dedicate herself to football at the age of 17. That was when the national team came calling and she was whisked off to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Thailand 2004, her first taste of major international competition.

“Well, things have certainly changed a lot since then,” she said. “We’ve made some small steps and we haven’t yet got to where we want to be, but there’s a lot more support for girls who play football now.”

As Garcia explained, in the past schools did not always look favourably on young women taking a month off to play football for their country: “One teacher made me retake history because I missed classes, even though I had a very good reason for being absent.”

“My football coach nearly failed me for not going to his classes, even though the reason I couldn’t go was because I was playing football,” commented Paredes, sharing her experience. “Fortunately, things like that don’t happen so often these days. If a girl gets called up for the World Cup now, she gets support, encouragement and all the help she needs.”

Spanish women’s football is certainly taking a step in the right direction, and the three defenders will hope to do the same when they set foot on the pitch in Montreal on Saturday - Garcia and Paredes with their left feet and Torrejon with her right, superstitions that might just help them combat Brazil’s wizardry.