Spain was freed with goals and game. He shook off the tension and had a great time playing soccer. This Friday, however, the most important thing was not the result. It was the message. After the team photos and the respective anthems, the Swedes and Spaniards gathered in front of the central stand and held a banner: “It’s over. Our fight is the global fight.” They were thus protesting against the sexual violence, harassment, coercion and discrimination that has affected women footballers for decades and whose denunciation caught on in Spain after the former president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, kissed in the mouth and without consent to forward Jenni Hermoso in the middle of the medal ceremony after beating England in the World Cup final. Hers, although personified in Jenni, is a global denunciation against the patriarchy that affects women around the world. That their demands have been accepted by the Spanish federation and government, that those who for years ignored them have begun to fall, allowed them to start kicking the ball on a magnificent autumn afternoon, in front of a public dedicated to football in an almost full stadium, with 16,114 spectators in the stands.
This Friday the relevant thing was to see a team play that has exposed itself like never before for thinking more about social rights than about football, more about denunciation than celebration. A team that since winning the World Cup in Sydney a month ago has already spent more time fighting to cleanse the honor of a teammate and for a better future for Spanish soccer players than in savoring the major success of that victory. The team arrived in Gothenburg with its nose still twisted, its players exhausted. But a little calmer.
For the Spanish, those with the serious and rigid countenance of the last few days, the first smiles returned when they began to touch the ball, already in training these last two days. The laughter began to be heard in the pre-match warm-up rounds, when they were applauded by the local fans, banners included with the now famous “It’s over.” And happiness, even if it was ephemeral, appeared with the achievement of the first goal. It came from the boots of Athenea del Castillo, which she received from an omnipresent Mariona. It was the equalizer. And the celebration, short, was culminated by a collective hug. Thus, just as discreetly they celebrated the three goals with which they beat Sweden, the best team in the world, according to the ranking of FIFA.
Spain left Gothenburg with a liberating and vital victory, which puts it on the path to Paris 2024. It achieved it from the eleven meters and in stoppage time (m. 96). Immune to the pressure of an entire stadium, Mariona Caldentey, nerves of steel. It will not be easy to earn a place to be in next summer’s Games. Nothing is given away here. Not even the world champion. But the three points from this first Nations League match against Sweden allow them to embark on the path with football arguments and the conviction that things can be done well.
Sweden had taken the lead with a first goal, the work of Magdalena Eriksson, when the La Roja players were still trying to find their feet. Control of the game, however, was always in Spain. Possession is their thing (69%), and precision in passing (85%), which remains the essence of their football. Touch, a lot of touch. And great goals. Like the one Eva Navarro scored, just a few minutes after entering the field. A tremendous left foot. She received it in the right corner of the area, cut back and went inside. With a very powerful shot from the front, she hit the long post. The joy lasted just as long as it took for Sweden to wake up, a well-oiled counterattack machine. Lina Hurtig scored the second and left Spain stiff. Head, head, Bonmatí asked them. And they had it. They never gave up the ball.
Thanks to Bonmatí and Putellas. Even though Alexia still lacks a little bit of speed. But class is not lost. She is not affected by injuries, no matter how long they may be, nor by sleepless nights, no matter how hard the disappointments are. One pipe, one drop. 11 is the reference point of Spain. Also on the grass. With both of them baton in hand, with Mariona omnipresent on her side, with Carmona doing the coverage and looking to tickle the Swedish defense, with Athenea always reaching the back line, chasing the goal, and the dusty Eva Navarro scratching chances in In the final minutes, Spain reached the penalty spot. Where the victory was sealed.
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