Spain’s three most senior players, Alexia Putellas, Jennifer Hermoso and Irene Paredes may have been worried that their chances of winning the World Cup would pass them by.
This trio, the only female players to have made more than 100 La Roja caps, have weathered challenging build-ups for the tournament as they battled the competition in Australia and New Zealand right up to the last minute. together.
Putellas’ return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury she sustained in July 2022, is understandably not smooth, as she struggles to regain her Ball-winning form. consecutive Golden balls.
Meanwhile, defender Paredes, although not one of 15 players who wrote an email to the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) calling for improved working conditions under head coach Jorge Vilda, has voiced support for the players’ actions on social media and gave up. her international captaincy in the process.
And, with Hermoso leaving Barcelona after falling out of love with football, players suspected it would be a feeling of never returning, let alone allowing her to be in the mental space to play sport. sport at the highest level. global stage.
Despite all the hurdles the three players had to overcome, they still sit on top of the world with the medals of the World Cup winners – something that just a few months ago seemed impossible.
“We tried for days to imagine being world champions but we couldn’t,” Hermoso said after the final whistle. “It is difficult to describe. it was a great pleasure. I am very proud of this team. We have shown that it is also possible to fight and endure.
Putellas’ struggle can’t turn off the light of victory
As a woman of few words who wandered through mixed-use areas with nothing more than a brief smile at journalists, Putellas was keen to let her efforts on the field make her talk. .
While many feel the team’s chances of leading to the World Cup depend on the return and skill of their amulet woman, fans believe that Putellas’ return to the team is far more important than the rest of the 15 players were eliminated.
“Alexia and I played together for a long time,” Hermoso told DW of her former Barcelona team-mate. “To live in this moment together, it’s so special.”
The 29-year-old has made minimal impact and spending so little time on the pitch during the World Cup is a hard pill to swallow for a player who is obsessively strict with standards. especially high of oneself.
Putellas made no attempt to hide his disappointment throughout the tournament from the sidelines, throwing a water bottle a few centimeters from the bench, after being substituted in the 46th minute against Zambia.
Prior to the injury, the dynamic midfielder played like a ball stuck in a shoe, but the technically gifted individual, having to relearn how to walk, run and control the ball, spent most of the tournament. to keep up. The speed of the game and the inability to provide the precise accuracy were all too familiar to her, to unleash Hermoso or Paralluelo.
However, the leader inside her saw her constantly round up and encourage her team, something all players aspire to, according to Hermoso.
“We know how special Alexia is, how special she is to the team and how special this win is for her,” she explained.
Hermoso’s journey to find love for football
For Hermoso, just 12 months ago, playing at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand seemed impossible.
Despite being Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer, having scored 181 goals in 224 appearances, she finds herself looking for a way out of the team she’s supported since she was a child.
At the end of the 2021-22 season, after a tumultuous season off the pitch with Barcelona fans slamming her, the striker moved to Mexican club Pachuca on a transfer. free.
“The road to this point has been really difficult,” Hermoso said DW through tears. “I had to go to Mexico just to feel like a player again. To bring back the love and passion for football in me.”
“A lot of people in Spain spoke and still talk about me, who I am, how I play. I proved to them that even though I’m 33, I still have the potential to be a good player.”
Head coach Vilda kept faith in Hermoso being able to adapt between leading La Roja and dropping down into midfield to support teenager Salma Paralluelo, who was named the League’s Young Player of the Year.
“Jenni has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders,” says Vilda. “I’ve known Jenni for over 15 years, she’s come here as the best version of herself, she’s given all she can at age 33, and I’m so proud of her.”
Vilda’s decision paid off as Hermoso, who is also Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer with 51 goals, scored three goals throughout the tournament and netted Paralluelo ahead of the finalists. in 2019 the Netherlands in a 2-1 win in extra time.
“Life consists of moments,” Hermoso reflects. “There was a time when I had to leave the best team in the world. This moment, it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for, for a long time.”
The power of Paredes offers a welcome calm in the background
At 32, Paredes also knows that lifting the trophy with her time in Spain isn’t in her favor, and she faces a difficult decision when the RFEF steps out in favor of Vilda over the demands of the club. The player expressed concern.
Although the Barcelona captain was not among the emailers, her inclusion in the team was unclear, leaving her out of selection until April 2023.
For Vilda, bringing the experienced centre-back back into the team was a no-brainer.
When asked about Paredes’ return after Spain’s friendly against China in April, he said DW: “She is a great player and has been for a long time, of course, I am very happy to have her with us. We don’t think about the past.”
Paredes was the only off-field player to play every minute of the World Cup, and it was her calm head, decisive air combat and fortitude against strikers that helped her dominate Spain’s defence.
“It was a dream,” said Paredes DW. “It was difficult but we knew it was possible. These moments are historic for Spanish football. It’s hard to put into words but it means everything.”
This article was originally published on DW.