World Cup diary: Countdown on to England's first women's final
England’s Lionesses will face Spain in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in what is another landmark achievement for Sarina Wiegman’s side. However, the mood in the opposition bench may not be as positive, as it has been a challenging few months for everyone involved in the Spain side.
Jorge Vilda’s side have been in impressive form this tournament, looking destined to reach the latter stages of the competition throughout. Spain have mainly easily managed to put teams to the sword, but showed grit and determination in the semi-finals by grabbing a 90th-minute winner against Sweden to book their spot in the final.
The displays have also been all the more impressive due to the off-field issues that the players are contending with. Several of Spain’s top players have not travelled to Australia due to protests against Vilda, which previously prompted the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to jump to the defence of their coach.
The ongoing feud between the players and management became a significant issue in September last year when 15 players sent RFEF near-identical emails requesting that they aren’t called up to the national team. The cluster of stars felt that they were concerned about their ‘emotional state’ and ‘fitness’ due to the conduct of Vilda and his team.
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In the letter, they demanded a ‘clear commitment to a professional project with attention paid to all aspects needed to get the best performance of this group of players’. There were also questions raised about team selection internally, as well as how those ruled out injured were being nursed back to fitness.
The RFEF had their hand forced and responded to the 15 emails in a strongly-worded letter which confirmed that they retain faith in Vilda and his management. The response read: “The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers. The Federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of manoeuvres are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful.
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“In accordance with current Spanish legislation, not attending a national team call is classified as a very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of between two and five years of disqualification. The RFEF, contrary to the way these players act, wants to make it clear that it will not take them to this extreme or pressure them. Directly, it will not summon the soccer players who do not want to wear the Spain shirt. The Federation will only have committed footballers even if they have to play with youth.
“The national team needs players committed to the project, defending our colours and proud to wear the Spain shirt. The players who have submitted their resignation will only return to the discipline of the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”
It remains to be seen whether the absences of Spain’s top players proves costly on Sunday and whether defeat in the final could see the RFEF’s stance on Vilda change.
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