In some ways, it’s understandable that many would make Jorge Vilda’s Spain the favorites for this year’s UEFA Women’s Euro.
La Roja have failed to win either of their two Arnold Clark Cup games this month, but ahead of their final game with Canada, opposition head coach Bev Priestman joined a long list of people to qualify as favorites for this summer’s competition. .
“I think they’re a team that’s brilliant on the ball and that makes you wonder defensively,” she said.
“You have to be really disciplined defensively to be able to deal with them and how well they move the ball. You have to do a lot of work. They have the best, the best players.
Much of this Spain squad plays for Barcelona, the reigning European champions who proved to be ahead of the rest of the continent last term – something they have carried into the current campaign as well.
So it’s easy for people to look at the massive representation of the Women’s Champions League winners on this side and assume they’re on the same level.
Many Barca stars in the Spanish squad are among the best players in the world – including Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas – and the names of Vilda’s squad who are not based in Catalonia are also very talented , like Manchester United full-back Ona. Batlle or Real Madrid striker Esther Gonzalez.
But this month’s Arnold Clark Cup reminded many of something often forgotten: Spain is not Barcelona.
There’s a different coach, a slightly different way of playing and several players who aren’t used to playing together too.
La Roja opened the tournament with a dominant display against badly-poor Germany, but conceded a late equalizer to draw 1-1.
In the second round of matches they held on, this time 0-0 against a heavily rotated, but well-trained England side.
Some may have listened expecting to see the Barcelona team that conquered Europe, and they see a lot of those familiar faces, but they are in the colors of Spain.
It’s just not the same – and that’s fine. It’s perfectly understandable that Spain aren’t yet at the conquering level that it took Barca 10 years to achieve.
After all, this is a nation that has only recently established itself in women’s football.
This is a nation that has never won a knockout match at a major tournament.
This is a nation that only qualified for its first World Cup in 2015.
This is a nation that was crippled by an allegedly toxic culture for 27 years, until head coach Ignacio Quereda was fired following their appearance in those finals.
None of this to belittle the quality of this team. He has the potential to be the best in the world.
It also doesn’t mean that Vilda is immune to criticism. His side haven’t played to the level they are capable of in this tournament and there have been some valid criticisms as a result.
“We have to be realistic,” Vilda said on Tuesday when asked about her thoughts on the “favorites” tag.
“I wouldn’t trade any of my players or any of my team for others around the world, but overall other national teams have fantastic stories and are also performing at very high levels.
“At the moment we are just trying to work hard, to do the best we can, considering ourselves among the contenders – maybe a group of seven or eight teams – who are in contention to win the Euros.
“At the same time, I think it could well be the tightest Euros in recent years. Everyone is trying to do the best they can and many national teams have improved and become stronger these last years. last years.
“We certainly don’t feel like the favourites, but we feel like we’re among the contenders.”
It sounds like a fair assessment – and one that’s important for people to hear.
The quality of this Spanish team and its potential are beyond doubt. But qualifying them so early as favorites for a major tournament? It doesn’t seem right.
Tickets to see England, Germany, Spain and Canada play in the Arnold Clark Cup are available now. Matches are shown live in the UK on ITV.