As soon as the match against Japan ended, a defeat that was difficult to digest because Spain could not say a word against the rival rivals reported with four goals, the coach Jorge Vilda gathered the players in an improvised huddle at the foot of the grass. His message was clear, since it was time to admit the mistakes and the rival’s superiority while negative thoughts had to be converted into what is to come, focus on not making the same mistake again.
And that, against Switzerland, the opponent they will face on Saturday in the round of 16 (7.00, La1), cannot happen again because it would be the sanse-finished for Spain. The rival will presumably raise a similar duel, because he does not want the ball but rather expresses himself with the counters, because he shelters at home to express himself punctually in the opposite area. A notice that hurt the players of the national team, dejected after the stake, although comforted because they understand that it is a stumbling block and that they have football, also the support of the federation as the president, Luis Rubiales, clarified.
After the match, the team took the bus and returned to the Movenpick Hotel, the one assigned to them by FIFA from the day before until the day after the match against Japan. “The atmosphere was sad because not only the defeat hurt, but because of how it had happened,” say those who were in the hotel dining room, where all the players met again. “There was little desire to talk and many to go to bed,” adds another authoritative voice. But Rubiales appeared there, addressing all of them to express their support and confidence, to remind them that Spain won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after losing in the opening match against Switzerland, to point out that their path in this World Cup has not been finish.
Spirit that began to echo in the morning at breakfast, also in the morning training, where the starters made recovery and little else, while the substitutes exercised normally under the orders of Vilda’s coaching staff and the gaze of Rubiales, sitting in a chair on the edge of the field next to Rafa del Amo, vice president of the federation, as well as two people from the presidential cabinet. There were no statements or more words, nor were there any the day after the other two matches, then categorical victories over Costa Rica and Zambia. After the shower, everyone had a party until lunchtime the next day. [aunque ya en el hotel James Cook, que les resulta más cómodo], hours of leisure and being with loved ones, so much so that they could sleep outside the hotel. “Family conciliation, the fact that the parents, brothers and children of the players have come, has created a spectacular atmosphere,” they say from the federation. “The truth is that after the tensions of the past —when 15 soccer players decided not to be summoned by the national team due to disagreements with the federation, understanding that professionalism was lacking—, that the players can be with their own, that the families of all unite , it has made everything easier ”, expands another authorized source. And, as seen so far, although there are still things in the pipeline, the group has come together in favor of the common goal of going as far as possible in the World Cup. But they must do much better than against Japan, a botch, a duel in which Spain had the ball but not the arguments, a straw team with the ball at their feet.
“These matches sting a lot. It’s the biggest defeat since I’ve been coach”, Vilda agreed with regret. He was not without reason, because the biggest drop since he took office, after the 2015 World Cup in relief of Ignacio Quereda, was by three goals in a 2019 friendly against Poland (0-3), while on five other occasions lost by two goals (Germany, Norway, England and France twice). A tripping time, since the last defeat louder than the one harvested at the Wellington Regional Stadium was back in 2012, in the group stage for the Euro Cup in which the team lost 0-5 against Germany.
It happened, in any case, that Japan was like the ferocious wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood story, stronger, faster, hungrier. Vilda did not hit the key either in the beginning or in the correction. “With the changes, we were looking to have depth with Alba and open up the wingers on natural foot to finish off crosses that haven’t arrived,” the coach admitted with a shrug. The team did not rebel either. Perhaps an enraged Aitana, like when she took the ball from the net after the third goal to plant it in the central circle while she bellowed with rage for the image and football; perhaps a leader like Paredes, who shouted to encourage a team that was already with its head down and its arms hanging. Little more the rest. Not even an Alexia who since she arrived at the World Cup has been hoarse, beyond the brief and polite greeting to the media accompanied by a half smile. The one that did not teach after the Japanese lunge. Neither she nor anyone else, to the point that Jenni Hermoso and Misa, among others, were very close to shedding a few tears.
A blow from Japan that, with its defense assembled near the area and its counters, has put in check what was taken for granted, like that Spain was up for something big, now required to redefine itself against Switzerland, also to patent a football that does not dwarfed by the narrowness of the low block.