- Paraguay competing at their second U-20 Women's World Cup at France 2018
- La Albirroja began with defeat by Spain and face USA next
- We speak with one of the team’s leading figures – Fabiola Sandoval
As a team, Paraguay are known never to give up – and the same could be said for their No9, Fabiola Sandoval. “I never throw in the towel; I refuse to surrender.” And that is no mere rhetoric either, but rather her way of interpreting football, as well as life.
Consequently, when things don’t go according to plan, as happened during La Albirroja’s debut here at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018, she just keeps going and battles on. “Sometimes we have nothing left in our legs, but we keep trying.” Paraguay may have gone down 4-1 to Spain, but they twice hit the crossbar, with one effort coming from the boot of Sandoval. “When that happens I still stay calm,” she told FIFA.com. Perhaps because she knows that football almost always gives you a chance to make amends.
Sandoval in brief
- Age: 19
- Position: Attacking midfielder
- Honours: Copa Libertadores champion with Sportivo Limpeno, runner-up at the South American U-20 Championship 2018, Gold Medal winner at the South American Games Cochabamba 2018
- National team trajectory: debuted with the U-17s in 2015, taking part in the World Cup in that age category at Jordan 2016, currently representing both the U-20s and the senior team, with whom she made her first appearance in April this year and now has four caps
Like that of many of her Albirroja team-mates, Sandoval’s story is one of overcoming obstacles and one that started with her playing football with the boys. All that changed when she was 14 and convinced her mother to let her move to the capital by herself to see if she could make it as a player. “The first time I felt like a footballer and felt that I knew how to play and could persevere with it was when I was selected for trials with the national team. There were about 90 or 95 of us girls and, out of all of them, I was asked to stay. Not even I could believe it.”
Football, studies and a lot of work
Since then, La Albirroja have been able to count on this versatile midfielder who combines strength, fine shooting and leadership on and off the pitch with a desire to constantly improve. “Every day I work hard and try to improve, as I don’t want to stagnate. I want to be able to play football abroad and help my family.” In the meantime, she juggles her passion for the game with her physiotherapy studies.
Sandoval knows that Group C at this World Cup is especially difficult. After the opening reverse again Spain, two more formidable opponents lie in store: USA and Japan. “We know it's tough, but our goal is to survive the group stage, something Paraguay have never previously done. We’re finding it very tough, but we still have two games left and on Thursday we will be trying to win against USA. I think we’re going to play a good game.” Whatever happens, one thing is clear: Paraguay and Sandoval will fight until the very end.