However, the players’ harmonious play and their historic achievements on the field during this tournament contrasted with the turmoil among some of the country’s best players, the team’s coach and coaching staff, and the Spanish governing body over the past year.
For months, a large number of the team’s leading players have been at odds with coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), a dispute that has led to the loss of some of La Roja’s star names at the World Cup finals.
After the team’s historic victories over the Netherlands and Sweden in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, videos circulated on social media of what appeared to be cold reactions from some of Spain’s substituted players towards Filda and his coaching staff, as well as during post-match celebrations.
One clip shows Barcelona midfielder Alexia Potellas walking towards the bench after being substituted and pulling her hand away from a member of the coaching staff trying to give her a low five, before appearing to ignore another attempt.
Another clip shows Vilda trying to celebrate with a handful of players after the win against the Netherlands, but she seems to be ignored.
Prior to this tournament, Spain had never won a Women’s World Cup knockout match. The crushing 4-0 defeat to Japan in La Roja’s last group stage match was a heavy blow, but the players responded brilliantly and improved as the tournament progressed.
The final is certainly a contest between the two most impressive teams in the competition, but it is particularly remarkable that Spain got this far given the country’s off-field woes.
In late September 2022, 15 members of Spain’s first women’s team sent personally signed letters to the Spanish Football Federation via email announcing that they could not play for the national team, unless there were sweeping changes made through the coaching staff.
The identical messages said that the “situation” within the Spanish national team, which was “aware of the Spanish Football Federation”, was affecting the players’ “emotional state” and their health.
The letter stated, “As a result, I do not currently consider myself in a condition to be selected for the national team, and I request that I not be called up until the situation is resolved.”
Three other players – captain Irene Paredes, forward Jennifer Hermoso and Potellas, who was recovering from a knee injury – showed support for their teammates but did not send any message.
CNN has reached out to RFEF and Vilda for comment.
After the players’ letter was published, Vilda described the situation as a “global embarrassment”.
He added, “The solution I’ve found is to make this roster, only with players who are 100 percent committed to the project.” “If you don’t appreciate what it’s like to be with the national team, wear that jersey and represent your country, then you don’t deserve to be with us.”
Of the 15 players who have signed letters, only three are in Spain’s current World Cup squad: Mariona Caldente, Aetana Bonmati and Una Batli.
Among the 12 absentees are some of the world’s best players in their positions, including goalkeeper Sandra Banus, defender Maby Lyon and midfielder Patricia Guijaro.
In an interview with El Periodico in April, Leon said that the players’ continued insistence that they not be selected “isn’t a tantrum.”
“If someone believes that, they will not understand anything at all from the message we are trying to send,” she said.
According to a report in The Athletic, among other publications, the players were unhappy with what they believed to be tactical and physical weakness from the coaching staff, the poor standard of the training sessions and some of Vilda’s overly controlling or authoritarian rules.
In an interview with Diario de Navarra in September 2022, Vice President of the Russian Federation Rafael del Amo called the allegations a “lie”. CNN has reached out to RFEF about these allegations.
Other reports say that the players felt that Filda did not deserve his position, and he only advanced through the national team coaching ranks because of his father, Ángel Filda.
While she was the manager of the women’s under-17 team, Vilda was also an assistant to his father with the under-19s, before taking over as head coach when he retired. Vilda was then promoted to lead the women’s side in 2015.
Vilda had earlier insisted he would not step down and the Spanish Football Federation has thrown its full support behind him.
The Spanish Football Federation said in a statement in September that it “will not allow footballers to continue to question the role of our national coach and his staff. We will not be subject to any kind of pressure.”
“UEFA will only call up committed players, even if that means playing youth players,” the board said.
The two sides went back and forth with statements and press conferences until the Women’s World Cup came and there was no decision yet; Vilda and his coaching staff were still in charge and 12 of the 15 players remained absent.
Spain, however, went on to make history at this World Cup.
The country’s run to the final for the first time was largely credited to the country’s incredible strength in depth.
Spain has talented youngsters across the ranks of its national teams, while the continued development of La Liga, particularly the success of Barcelona and Real Madrid, has improved standards. Barcelona’s Champions League-winning women’s team forms the core of the team.
In 2022, Spain won the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups. Teenager Selma Baralelo, for example, has progressed to the first team and scored crucial knockout goals.
Asked several times during a World Cup press conference about the ongoing feud, Filda replied to a reporter before the semi-final against Sweden that they were “asking about the past”.
After the quarter-final victory over the Netherlands, the 42-year-old thanked the Spanish Football Federation for their support, and after the semi-final victory over Sweden, Vilda said the situation had “made us all stronger”.
Talking to dem In the build-up to the final, Vilda said there had been “difficult moments” this year but added: “After the year we’ve had, if everything that happened here happens in a World Cup final, we take it as a positive.”
When asked what it was like to face the dressing room questioning the value of the coach and the staff, Vilda told the Spanish newspaper that there was no choice but to “concentrate” on work.
In another interview this week with a Spanish newspaper like, He said that questioning his “honour” was difficult and that his loved ones “suffered a lot.”
He said, “A lot of things were said by people that weren’t true.” When public opinion is rumored about unrealistic, unjust and false things. It hurts.
“In the end, I think time puts everyone in their place. At that moment, when I came out at the press conference and said that if anyone had something to say, say it, nobody would come out. It was all over. That silence shows that there wasn’t any guilt of anything at all.”
There will likely be mixed feelings for the players – both at home and those playing in the Championship – ahead of Sunday’s final.
Midfielder Virginia Torricella, who was not in the 15 but played for Spain in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, said after Spain’s semi-final victory over Sweden that she “understands” the decisions of both groups.
“I also think there are players out there who will have to experience this firsthand and many things are unfair, but it’s impossible not to feel that way,” she wrote on X, officially known as Twitter.
Torricella added that she felt “proud of everything” she experienced with the national team and “proud to see the sport I love progress”.
Teams’ continued involvement in disputes with their federations has been one of the main themes of the Women’s World Cup. Much progress has been made in women’s football, but much more needs to be done.
Win or lose on Sunday, Spain’s campaign highlighted the country’s brilliance on the pitch. But the turmoil and uncertainty will continue to overshadow the team’s achievements.
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