- Spain qualify for their first FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup final
- La Rojita had a player sent off and survived a late penalty
- We speak to Catalina Coll, the hero of the hour for Pedro Lopez’s side
Spain goalkeeper Catalina ‘Cata’ Coll arrived in the mixed zone singing and dancing with her team-mates, shaking off the tension of a match that involved plenty of nervy moments for La Rojita. The suffering was all worth it, however, as the Spanish advanced to their first-ever FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup final, doing so courtesy of a 1-0 victory over tournament hosts France. This Friday night, they will fight it out with Japan for the title.
Wearing a broad smile, half out of delight and half out of relief, the goalkeeper will surely remember Monday's semi-final for a long, long time. First came an explosion of joy with Patri Guijarro’s goal, promptly dampened by Aitana Bonmati’s sending off. That was followed by Coll’s penalty save and a French siege, though fortunately for the goalkeeper and her team-mates, there was a happy ending.
So how did she experience it all from between the posts?
Picking up possession from a throw-in, Lucia Rodriguez sent in a cross that Guijarro nodded home after the French defenders had failed to clear. As is usually the case, Coll celebrated alone, not that she cared about that: “I saw the goal on the screen and I was super excited. I couldn’t believe it had gone in.”
A red card and a penalty
Things were going perfectly for La Rojita until the 69th minute, when Bonmati – one of the key cogs in the Spanish midfield – picked up a second yellow card and left the field in tears. Then, seven minutes later, the referee awarded France a penalty after Laia Aleixandri had handled the ball inside the Spain box.
Coll could scarcely believe it. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding’, because everything was falling apart: we were 1-0 up, but we’d had Aitana sent off and now this penalty. I believed in myself, though, and it worked out.” She was not the only one who had faith in her abilities, as she went on to reveal: “[Carmen] Menayo came up and said she believed in me, that I was going to stop it, and I did stop it. I’ve always loved penalties and I felt sure of myself.”
Though Coll kept out Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s spot-kick, the final whistle was still a good few minutes away. And France spent that time desperately searching for an equaliser. Coll maintained her concentration right to the very end, however. “It’s all a question of keeping a cool head. The team put in a fantastic shift defensively and that’s the reason why we won.”
Relief at last
When the full-time whistle finally came, the Rojita outfield players all rushed to the centre circle to celebrate, while Coll, again in solitude, raised her arms in triumph. She was not alone for long, with Lucia Garcia and ‘Misa’ Rodriguez rushing from the bench to celebrate with her. “They’ve given me more support here than anyone else, and Misa’s especially important because she’s a keeper and encourages me and advises me more than anyone. I’m so grateful to her. She’s one of the best team-mates I’ve ever had.”
Did you know?
- Aged 17, Coll is one of the squad’s youngest members and skippered the Spanish U-17 side that won the European title back in May.
- Though she started out as a defender and midfielder, she always wanted to pull the gloves on, a wish that came true when she turned 12. “They kept telling me to carry on as an outfield player until I just said: ‘I want to be a keeper’. I’d always liked the idea of diving around and saving shots.”
- She was an unused substitute at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016, where Spain finished third. “This has been my chance and I’ve taken it thanks to my drive and desire.”