Tuesday 20 February 2024, 08:15

Montse Tomé: “We have to stay ambitious and hungry to improve, with our feet on the ground”

  • Spain’s senior women’s national team coach recently attended the post-FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Coaches Forum

  • She reflected on the secrets of the world champions’ success and the challenges that lie ahead

  • She underscored the importance that the team set standards and an example for youngsters to follow

Spain currently dominate the women’s football landscape worldwide. As reigning world champions at both U-17 and U-20 levels, on 20 August 2023 they claimed their first major senior title when they defeated England in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.

Japan are the only other side in the history of the women’s game to have achieved the feat of triumphing in all three age categories, but unlike Spain, the Nadeshiko did not possess all three crowns simultaneously. Not only that, but The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award was claimed by Aitana Bonmatí for 2023 and Alexia Putellas for 2022 and 2021, highlighting the irrefutable fact that Spanish women’s football is going from strength to strength.

FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger with Blanca Romero (L) and Spain women's national team head coach Montse Tome during the Post FIFA Women's World Cup Coaches Forum at HoF, Home of FIFA

La Roja are claiming individual and team accolades that are the pride of the football-mad nation. To unravel the secrets underpinning their success and discuss the road ahead, FIFA.com/inside sat down with Spain’s senior women’s national-team coach, Montse Tomé, during the recently held Coaches Forum organised to analyse the latest edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™.

“We’re blessed with so much incredible talent across all age categories; we can count ourselves fortunate to have so many players to choose from,” she explains with respect to the conveyor belt between the youth sides and the senior team.

Some of those sides will have the opportunity to begin defending their titles later this year. The U-20s have already qualified for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Colombia 2024™ by virtue of winning the UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship, while the U-17s will resume their qualifying campaign for the UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship in March, with the long-term objective of securing one of three places up for grabs at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Dominican Republic 2024™.

While Tomé does not mask her sense of pride, she is in no doubt about the direction in which women’s football is heading within the Spanish Football Association: “We have to fulfil our objectives, our goals, our responsibilities, improve every day, grow our footballing identity and look to win every game.”

“In Spain we try to define a specific profile for each position and then go out and find the best player for that role. Right now, we’re lucky to have that tool at our disposal. We look for a certain profile and feel we can get the right fit. We take those players and try to mould them to our identity,” she adds.

Deep dive into the secrets of success

To fully grasp the key facets underpinning the success of Spain’s women’s teams, all of which follow the same philosophy, it is important to put their methods under the microscope.

“We look to instil excellence, a performance culture and a winning mentality in the senior team. That is something we value above all else. The players in the younger age categories still develop in a competitive and ambitious environment, but most importantly they follow the process. We try to take great care in the way in which we operate, to implement a unique methodology that helps our players to develop in a certain way.”

Everything is done with a view to turning out players for the senior national team. On being questioned about the secrets that have propelled Spain to the top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, Tomé responds: “The players’ talent is important, but it’s equally important that we stay ambitious and hungry to improve, with our feet on the ground. We need to understand that in order to stay at the top, we have to keep working hard. That’s our main focus.”

“Unique and enticing opportunity”

The first woman to have taken the reins of the senior women’s national team, Tomé has only been in the role for five months. The post-FIFA Women’s World Cup Coaches Forum was therefore an invaluable opportunity for her to exchange views and experiences with some of the game’s big names.

“It’s a unique and very enticing opportunity as part of my development as a coach and as a person. There were some great coaches with a lot of experience [attending the forum], like Jill Ellis, who was a top international coach, and I enjoyed spending time with her and listening to what she had to say. Sharing knowledge helps us improve and encourages us to be open-minded enough to listen to others, as well as to offer our own insight, which opens up fundamental debates,” she says.

The tips that she picked up at the forum could prove priceless ahead of the next challenge on the horizon, namely qualification for this year’s Olympic Games. Spain have never previously reached the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament and will be looking to put that right before gunning for gold in France. The first obstacle to overcome is a home semi-final encounter with the Netherlands in the UEFA Women’s Nations League on 23 February, as Spain look to extend their golden spell and secure one of the two places up for grabs at Paris 2024.

“We’ll be going all out for the win. We go into it having won the World Cup, which was far from easy and where hard work ultimately reaped rewards. We have a lot of talent, a lot of ability and still a great hunger to win. We need that ambitious mindset if we are to go all the way.”

Aitana’s ambition

The players demonstrate their ambition day in, day out, whether it be with their clubs or the national team, with one particular player standing out from the crowd: Aitana Bonmatí. A month ago, she took home The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award for the first time, receiving unabated praise, including from her international coach.

“She is a special player, with incredible potential and who can still improve. Her ambition is insatiable, and she was born with a winning mentality and an ability to solve things on her own. Physically, she possesses the characteristics that enable her to do the things she does at the speed she does.”

As both a player and coach, Tomé has encountered first-hand the evolution of women’s football over the years, during which time FIFA has played a key role thanks to its Women’s Football Strategy and its Women’s Development Programme.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 23: Spain women's national football team head coach Montse Tome poses for a portrait during the Post FIFA Women's World Cup Coaches Forum at HoF, Home of FIFA on January 23, 2024 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

It is imperative that we take care of women’s football, because the players certainly have the quality, and that we think about the image we give off to the girls and boys who idolise the players and look up to us as role models.

Montse Tomé
Spain coach

“Clear and significant strides are being made across women’s football, whether it be in the physical condition of the players, the speed of the game, the players’ positioning, the resources available to coaches and members of the backroom staff, or the stadiums. We have to focus on the very essence of the sport, the passion, which has taken us to where we are today,” she says.

Tomé also made a point of highlighting the role played by the media and the heightened appeal of women’s football, as demonstrated in the expanded and successful FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, “which opened the eyes of the world”, and at which several records were broken at all levels.

“The media have joined us on our journey, and the scintillating football on display can now be enjoyed by thousands everywhere. We have to relay these important values to everyone,” she concludes.

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