FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018

FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018

5 August - 24 August

FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup

All-rounder Andujar comes to Spain’s rescue

Spain's forward Candela Andujar (L) vies for the ball with Nigeria's midfielder Peace Efih (R) / AFP / Fred TANNEAU
  • ​Spain reached the semi-finals at U-20 Women's World Cup for the first time
  • caught up with Candela Andujar after their win
  • She made her debut at right-back in the victory

Things were running smoothly for La Rojita with 21 minutes gone of their quarter-final tie against Nigeria at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018. Coach Pedro Lopez’s plans were working out perfectly, with his side 1-0 up and in control, until that is, Lucia Rodriguez went down in pain, clutching her leg.

A pulled muscle was the culprit and the problem for Spain was that they had no natural replacement for the right-back, with Ona Batlle having had to return home a few days earlier with an injury of her own. Lopez looked around and promptly called over his right winger Candela Andujar, his choice to replace Rodriguez.

The lowdown on Candela Andujar

  • Aged 18, she plays for Barcelona
  • First represented her country at U-16 level
  • Honours with Spain: runner-up at the UEFA European Women’s U-17 Championship in 2016 and 2017 and a bronze medallist at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016
  • Set to start a degree in fitness and sport science in September

It was not so much a Plan B as a Plan C, as the coach later explained with a smile at the post-match press conference. It worked out for him, however, as the Spanish ran out 2-1 winners to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in their history.

Emerging from the dressing room with a sandwich in her hand, a clearly delighted Andujar reflected on her evening’s work: “I had to do a quick reset.” And it had to be quick, because the Barcelona winger had never played at full-back in a competitive match before. “Pedro’s tried me out at full-back a few times in training but it was never anything serious.” 

All of a sudden, however, she found herself deputising in the position in a World Cup knockout match. “I found it tough to begin with but my team-mates helped me out. The team really worked hard and we got our reward,” she said, a broad smile across her face.

Among those lending her a helping hand was Eva Navarro, who came on for Rodriguez and worked the right wing, dropping back on occasion to help Andujar out. “In training, if Candela ever stands in at full-back, I go on the wing. We’ve got a really good understanding,” explained Navarro.

Did you know?

  • Andujar has now played in every position during her career: “I’ve been everywhere. I was in goal for seven years, and then I moved into the centre of defence. I’ve played in midfield, then up front, then on the wing, and now at full-back (laughs).”
Spain v Nigeria: Group  - FIFA U-20 Women's  World Cup France 2018 Quarter Final - Aitana Bonmati of Spain celebrates her team's first goal with Candela Andujar
© Getty Images

Strangely enough, Andujar first took an interest in football after watching another full-back, her older brother Joaquin. “He played for the team in the town where we used to live,” she explained. “I’d watch him and the team and I enjoyed it. I used to go with my mother and father, but then I stopped watching my brother and started playing with some boys who went to the games too.”

Joaquin is now training to become a firefighter, while his sister is only two games away from winning a World Cup. “We’ve got three days to recover and I’m full of confidence. I really am. I think we’re going to get to the final because we’re a tightly knit bunch and we’ve got a great side.” A great side with an all-rounder who is ready to play wherever she is needed.

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