Vilda: Spain were heroic in defeat 

  • Jorge Vilda looks back on Spain’s meeting with USA at France 2019

  • Offers a detailed explanation (see video) of the move that led to Spain’s equaliser

  • “We want people to remember us for the way we win”

Spain continue to attract admiration for their memorable performance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. La Roja’s run ended against USA in the Round of 16, though they were anything but overawed by their high-ranking opponents, giving as good as they got against the Americans and coming close to a shock win.

Despite their relatively early exit, the Spanish earned recognition for their efforts when the France 2019 Technical Report was published a few months later, appearing prominently in many of the document’s performance insights.

Spain coach Jorge Vilda relives that exciting afternoon in Reims, providing an in-depth analysis of the move that led to his side cancelling out USA’s opener and giving his views on the France 2019 Technical Report’s positive appraisal of his team. Do you still find yourself thinking about the USA game?

Jorge Vilda: I get these feelings popping up in my head every so often. We came very close to pulling off a dream result. We were all convinced we could do it, both the players and the coaching staff. They made it 2-1 when we were playing our best football and going for the win. We fought to the end and were heroic in defeat.

When did you think Spain could actually beat the reigning world champions?

Part of the plan was based on the fact that if we got to half-time and they weren’t in the lead, then they wouldn’t get away from us. Another of the plans that we didn’t fulfil, though, was not conceding in the opening 15 minutes. The USA team is known for scoring early goals in World Cup games.

The team reacted, though, and we were level within just a few minutes. That goal allowed us to keep on fighting and defending, which is something we’re not that used to. In fact, we suffered less than we usually do, even though we had to defend for long periods. Our plans for that game were different to the ones we usually follow, and the players were totally committed.

Was that the best your team has played since you took over?

In a competitive sense we were at our best, but Spain can be better when it comes to keeping the ball and being more offensive. That’s an area where we can improve: operating at that level defensively and being more like ourselves in an attacking sense.

One of the aims when I took on the job was to play a lot of games against top opposition, and that’s what’s made us develop as a team. We’ve played more matches in the last four years than we did in the previous eight and that experience and knowledge ends up making a difference.

LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JUNE 08: Jorge Vilda, Head Coach of Spain gives instructions to Mariona Caldentey of Spain during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group B match between Spain and South Africa at Stade Oceane on June 08, 2019 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

What does it mean to see Spain featuring so prominently in many aspects of the game in the France 2019 Technical Report?

It was pleasing to go to the FIFA Football Conference in Milan and see that Spain was among the best in virtually every area of performance: moves leading to goals, penalty-area entries, touches inside the box, how we pressed and how we defended. It’s quite reassuring because you get the sense that the hard work is paying off. We were one of the best teams and the data backs that up.

Were you surprised to see the national team up among the best in some areas?

No, I wasn’t. We generate our own statistical reports after every game and they match up pretty well. There are some areas where we can improve though, areas that we’re already working on.

They include our compactness when we’re in and out of possession. That area could be both bigger and smaller than the ones we respectively occupied during the World Cup. In other words, we could open up and close up more. Systems are changing, as is the type of player we’re using in certain positions, and that’s helping us to develop our style of play.

What lessons did the team learn in France that they can put into practice now?

Experience, footballing nous and competitiveness. The objective was to be a better team and we’ve more than done that. We now have to prepare for every game in the right way, whether it’s a friendly or a match against the top team in the World Ranking.

There are a lot of aspects where could improve and others where we can develop. In terms of game analysis, we’re giving the players information that’s increasingly more specific and more useful.

After the performances and positivity of recent years, is 2020 the year when Spain takes that extra step?

We know it’s a results business, but I think it’s a major duty of ours to leave a legacy in terms of performance. We want people to remember us not just for our results but for the way we win too.

Jorge Vilda, Head Coach of Spain poses for a portrait during the official FIFA Women's World Cup 2019