Wednesday 25 April 2018, 07:14

Patri Guijarro, Spain's leader eyeing France 2018 glory

  • Spain head to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018 as European champions

  • Nation’s best performance came two years ago, when they reached the last eight

  • We spoke to La Rojita’s star player, Patri Guijarro

Patri Guijarro has always been the baby of the family. She was only 15 when directing play at Mallorca side Collerense in the Spanish women’s first division, and for the last two years she has been the youngest player on the books at Barcelona, where she turns out for a first-team with world class players such as Lieke Martens, voted The Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2017.

“I’m delighted to be playing and training with people who have so much experience. I can tell I’m maturing more quickly,” she told with a broad smile across her face. Now a full international with Spain, she is the leader of the U-20 side that will attempt to claim the world title in the category in France this coming August.

The lowdown on Patri Guijarro

  • Date and place of birth: 17.05.1998, Palma de Mallorca

  • Height: (1.70m)

  • Type of player: a creative midfielder who covers a lot of ground and gets into the opposition box.

  • Honours: runner-up at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014; winner of the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship in 2015 and the European Women’s Under-19 Championship in 2017; winner of the 2016 Algarve Cup and the 2017 Cyprus Cup with the full national team; and winner of the 2017 Copa de la Reina with Barcelona.

  • Education: currently studying physiotherapy, Guijarro was the first girl at Barcelona’s La Masia training academy to take her high school exams.

Guijarro divides her international career between Spain’s senior side, which is coached by Jorge Vilda and has made a flying start to the qualifiers for France 2019, and the U-20s. “I’m just as motivated to play for one as the other,” she explained. “There’s also the fact that we’ve all known each other in the U-20s for a long time. My first call-up for Spain came when I was 15 and a lot of my team-mates from back then are in the U-20 side. It’s like being with a group of friends. We know each other really well in terms of our football, which is a bonus.”

It was in August last year, in the final of the European Women’s Under-19 Championship, that she shared one of the most magical moments of her career with them, when La Rojita twice came from behind to beat France 3-2. Guijarro scored two of her side’s goals, including the winner.

Patri Guijarro scores the 89th-minute goal that gave Spain their second UEFA European Women’s Under-19 title

“It was a great day, one of the best, and not just because we won the title – the first U-19 title in a long time – but also because of the way we won it. We kept a cool head despite our age and we managed to come back and win. I think that says a lot about us. We were in a tough spot but we kept it together, even though we’re young.”

The tournament’s most outstanding performer and its leading scorer too, Guijarro went on to voice her praise of a generation with whom she also experienced the disappointment of losing the previous year’s European final and the final at Costa Rica 2014.

“They’ve worked really hard and they’ve always made it to finals, without ever being able to win one, because of bad luck or other reasons,” she said. “I was really mad after the U-19 final in 2016; the girls had never won anything and it was such a tough final too. I told them that if we won it in my last year with the U-19s then it would be for them. The least I could do was dedicate a shirt and the title to them.”

Having also reached the quarter-finals of the U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016 with the same generation of players, Guijarro is now aiming to make up for that disappointment as well. The task awaiting La Rojita in France will not be easy, however, with Japan, USA and Paraguay waiting for them in the group phase.

“Yes, it’s a tough one,” she said with a nervous laugh. “We enjoy that kind of challenge though. Before the draw I said that I wanted us to get Japan, and look what happened! They’re great games to play in. You’re at the World Cup and if you want to be the champion you have to beat the best, so…”

Spain will make the short journey to France with a team packed with players who ply their trade in the top flight of the Spanish women’s league. “The championship has improved a lot, and it’s great that we’ve got players who aren’t scared to get stuck in and come out on top.”

Though keen to play down any talk of Spain being among the favourites, Guijarro does have a warning for their rivals: “We’re a strong side and we’ve earned respect these last few years.”