Spain – England: Competitive efficiency against tactical excellence | Women’s Soccer World Cup 2023


If someone told me 18 years ago, when I began my adventure in women’s football, that today I would be in Sydney writing these letters the day before the final of the Women’s World Cup that Spain would play against England, that I would be the national coach from Scotland after having worked in Spain, the US, France and England and coaching teams like Arsenal or winning titles in different countries, I wouldn’t have believed it. Reality very often exceeds any destination where imagination can take us.

The strategic plan of the English Federation initiated in 2012 for the professionalization of football played by women and created with the clear objective of winning titles at the senior national team level bore fruit last summer, when after the arrival of Sarina Weigman, the successful Dutch coach who already managed to win the 2018 Euro Cup with the Netherlands, England can win the European title after so many years of effort, investment and tireless work. The country, as host, organized an impeccable tournament from the strategic, commercial and logistical point of view that culminated in the victory of the leon in a final where one of the players from my time at Arsenal, Chloe Kelly, scored the winning goal. That will remain for history.

This Sunday’s final represents the evolution of the game in recent years, where both Spain and England will have the opportunity to win the World Cup for the first time.

England is a rival that has shown one quality above all: the ability to compete; in addition to excellent group cohesion, generated by Sarina’s management, and unmatched levels of trust and unity as a group. They have a winning mentality, the ability to attack directly and deal damage with quick transitions and through crosses; also a defensive solidity based on high levels of concentration and simplifying tactical tasks through excellent collective work.

Traditionally, they have used a 1-4-3-3 tactical setup; but after the important absences due to injury to captain Leah Williamson and forward Beth Mead and not finding their best version of themselves in the game during the first matches of the World Cup group stage, they have switched to a 1-3-5 arrangement -2. They play with three central defenders. This is the greatest weakness of the English team in their phase with the ball and Spain will have to take advantage of it by putting pressure on them and forcing them to make decisions with the ball; this will cause errors that can be transformed into good moments for Spain, to be able to find space behind the English defences.

The two wingers Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly stand out for their physical capacity and their offensive projection. Very experienced players, but who will leave spaces to take advantage of during the offensive phase. Another moment for Spain to take tactical advantage. In addition, goalkeeper Mary Earps dominates the passing game and with her feet, but she will have problems with very long crosses and long distance shots to change her position, as she did during the tournament.

The three midfielders, Keyra Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Ella Toone, are tactically correct players and understand very well the moments to run behind, but they are far from the level of the Spanish midfield. While the two leading forwards, Alessia Russo and Lauren Hemp, are very vertical and will try to exploit every opportunity to run behind the Spanish central defenders. Hemp is very fast, but her natural position is winger, however, Alessia Russo is very effective in front of goal.

Sarina will have to decide whether to include the talented youngster Lauren James, who was red carded and banned for two games but has been involved in most of England’s goals in this tournament. Lauren is a creative player capable of creating situations for herself to win games. Since her time at Arsenal when she was 14 years old, she already stood out as an exceptional player for the future.

Other offensive solutions from the bench could be Chloe Kelly, a very upright player who dominates both legs and is capable of contributing to the team from the bench and performing under pressure without a problem, as she has previously demonstrated. Apart from Chloe, the rest of the options, such as Jordan Nobbs, have not been used frequently during the tournament, so Sarina’s options are quite limited.

The tactical reading of the appointment is very simple: Spain will play the game of tactical excellence with the ball and positional attack and will try to break England’s defensive structure. She will have the ball, but she will have to adjust very well the defensive vigilance before the loss of the ball and the pressing after loss, since this will be the moment for England to run behind the centrals, the greatest danger for the English along with the wing centers and the set pieces.

Believe it or not, Spain is a better team than England and if they are able to find their best version, they will have a good chance of making history and winning their first women’s World Cup, something that we would not have dreamed of a few years ago. La Roja could be the current Under-17, Under-20 and Senior world champion, something historic that no one has achieved before and that reflects the work of many years of many players, coaches and clubs. Let’s make history tomorrow. Come on, Spain!

Pedro Martinez Losa He is a soccer coach and selector of the Scottish women’s team.

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