Thursday 29 November 2018, 21:51

Semi stand-out Lopez dreaming of final glory

  • Irene Lopez has been a key figure in Spain’s charge to the Uruguay 2018 final

  • Midfielder scored one of the goals of the tournament in the semi-final

  • "A lot of the hard work is done, but we still need to take one more little step"

Irene Lopez grinned broadly at the praise she has been receiving for her remarkable goal at Estadio Charrua in Montevideo, and without any false modesty, said out loud what everyone else was thinking: “The truth is, it was an absolute cracker!”

As well as being aesthetically pleasing, her spectacular left-footed volley on Wednesday was also extremely important, as not only did it seal Spain’s victory over a stubborn New Zealand side, it qualified La Rojita for the final of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018.

“Reaching a final is, like, phew,” the talented midfielder told, gesticulating to get her point across. “A lot of the hard work is done, but we still need to take one more little step. And I think we’ve got a good chance of doing it.”

Lopez and her team-mates certainly have the skills to go all the way against Mexico in Saturday’s final, if Spain’s previous five matches at the tournament are anything to go by. “I think that’s something that defines our game,” she said. “Our style is not a secret: it involves lots of touches of the ball until we find the right spaces. And we know how to manage our efforts, of course. When we do that, good things tend to happen.”

Irene Lopez in Uruguay

  • Matches played: 5 (90 minutes 24 seconds per match)

  • Goals: 3 (23 per cent of her team’s total)

  • Assists: 2 (33.33 per cent of her team’s total)

Lopez has certainly been instrumental in those good things, not just because she has played a role in five of Spain’s 13 goals at Uruguay 2018, but because she has also shown that she can dictate the tempo in midfield. This aptitude may stem from the multitude of positions in which she has performed in the past.

“I started at full-back, but moved up to the wing. From there, I went to central midfield, and then I played just behind the strikers for a bit, before returning to the middle of the park. I’m happy no matter where they stick me, to be honest,” she said, smiling.

When it comes to scoring or providing an assist, her reasoning was similar. “Whatever leads to a goal – and gets us a little bit closer to our objective – is fine,” said the dynamic No6, before clarifying what that aim entails. “I envisioned myself becoming a world champion before coming here. I think it’s understandable to imagine yourself lifting the trophy. Everyone who’s taken part in a World Cup tournament has dreamt about it.”

Irene Lopez of Spain is awarded Player of the Match against Canada 

6 quotes from No6 On getting away from football: “I like listening to music and spending time with my friends, as well as going on bike rides and just relaxing at home, doing nothing.”

On her number: “I normally wear No10, but here Pina, the veteran (laughs), has that number. The 6 is my second favourite number. Iniesta wore it for Spain, and Xavi had it at Barcelona."

On her first call-up: “It was unforgettable. It came on 10 January, I was 15 and a friend gave me the news. My reaction went something like this: ‘Are you being serious?’ ”

On her role within the squad: “I’m the one who sleeps the most and loves music."

On squad get-togethers: “We’ve been playing FIFA. We have four controllers and we play in pairs. Eva Navarro and I make a great team; we’re the best!”

On football: “Without football I don’t know where I’d be. These days it completes me.”