- Cata Coll is one of the Spain’s finest goalkeeping prospects
- 19-year-old has already made her topflight debut with Sevilla
- A world champion with the U-17s in 2018, she is aiming for a repeat with U-20s
Making your first division debut at just 19 can be overwhelming for some, but knowing you have already played in bigger games can keep the nerves in check. "It helps a lot and can reassure you that you’ll do well, that you can do it." The words are those of Catalina Coll, who knows a thing or two about important games.
At 15, she was on the bench when La Rojita took bronze at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2016™. At 17, as first choice keeper, she helped her country to runners-up spot at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2018™, and a few months later she won the U-17 World Cup in Uruguay – a first for Spanish women's football. In between, she collected several more medals in European Championships at youth level.
"For this generation, it’s been kind of like ‘BOOM’," she says, laughing. "We have our feet firmly on the ground and aren’t fully aware of all we’ve done. We’re young and want to become part of the senior team and win everything there is to win." One of her U-20 team-mates, Eva Navarro, has already represented Spain at senior level, and Cata would love to follow in her footsteps.
Did you know...?
- Cata started out in midfield until she was asked to try out in goal at the age of 10.
- She wears the No.13 shirt in honour of Dudu Aouate, who she used to admire when he kept goal for Mallorca during her childhood. Her other role model is Barcelona and Spain goalkeeper Sandra Panos.
- Cata came through the youth academy at modest Balearic club Collerense, which also produced internationals Virginia Torrecilla, Mariona Caldentey and Patri Guijarro, among others.
- Instructor: when back in Mallorca, she trains boys and girls at a goalkeeping school run by Pablo Roca, with whom she also trained.
First rate challenge
Signed by Barcelona just a year ago, Cata was then loaned out to Sevilla with a view to getting more playing time in Spain’s top flight. The competition for places was fierce, with two other internationals, Sara Serrat and Noelia Ramos, already vyingto defend the Sevilla goal. Yet Cata was up to the challenge and has ended up playing most games.
"I like challenges and competition, because if you know you're always going to start then you get comfortable. Not knowing and having to give 100 per cent every day has taught me a lot mentally. You learn how to wait, knowing that your time will come and that you have to make the most of it when it does."
By the time COVID-19 forced the league to stop, Cata had already made a bunch of notable saves, creating a sense that the best was yet to come.
"What really stood out for me in this first year were the daily demands. Previously, I was used to training three times a week, because the players had jobs to do.
"When you're part of a professional team, then that is your fulltime job. You don’t have to look for other work in order to survive, and it makes a huge difference. Also the facilities, which if you train in the mornings, you can make use of on free afternoons... It's very much appreciated."
Happy with her experience so far with Sevilla, she knows she has a decision to make about her future ahead of next season. "It's a contradiction, because your heart says one thing, which is to stay with Barça, but your head says you need more playing time to gain experience. And then there’s the fact that Barça have Panos, who’s one of the very best. In the end, the decision I make will be the right one for me."
Countdown to the World Cup
One thing that is clear, however, are the new dates for the U-20 World Cup, which was due to be played this August in Costa Rica and Panama. After being postponed because of the global pandemic, it is now scheduled to take place next year from 20 January to 6 February.
"We already have the dates in our diaries. We’ve talked about it as a squad and cannot wait for it to start, because we lost the final two years ago and that remains a thorn in our side."
Losing the final of that tournament (3-1 to Japan) left the keeper with a bitter taste in her mouth, particularly after impressing and saving a penalty during the semi-final victory over hosts France. "We won that difficult semi and were full of excitement and emotion heading into the final. Then they go and put three goals past you, which isn’t nice. So we want to remove that thorn."
Also, at the UEFA U-19 Championship where Spain booked their World Cup place, La Rojita were firm favourites for the title, only for France to end their hopes in the semi-finals. "We couldn’t believe it. We had a fabulous team, but France made it hard for us, and that setback is a reminder that you can never relax. However, life can give you a second chance... and now we have the U-20 World Cup."
The dream of the double crown
By early next year, Coll and and several of her team-mates could even be two-time world champions. "Can you imagine it? We’re really looking forward to January to be able to compete and say, 'here come Spain'."
And who knows? After all, the last time Cata and Co crossed the Atlantic for a World Cup, they came home with the trophy…