Saturday 18 August 2018, 09:15

Spain’s Egurrola talks tactics  

  • Spain in the last four of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup for the first time

  • They play France, the team they beat in last year’s European U-19 final

  • Rojita linchpin Damaris Egurrola looks ahead to the match with

“I’m not scared of the ball,” said Spain midfielder Damaris Egurrola, who knows very well that if she gives it away, she is potentially giving her Rojita side a big problem. There are, however, two very good reasons why there is no need for Spain fans to panic in such a situation: firstly, the team works as one to win the ball back at the earliest opportunity; and secondly, Egurrola is usually the first to react and make up for her error.​

The lowdown on Egurrola

  • Born in Orlando, USA, 18 years ago. Has lived in Spain since the age of seven

  • Began playing football in the playground at her school in Guernika, in the Basque country. Has played for Athletic Bilbao since she was 14

  • Position: “I played on the wing when I was young, but I think they could see that I didn’t have much of a future there, so I switched to wide midfield, central defence, and then central midfield.”

  • Favourite players: Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez and Silvia Meseguer

  • Spain career: first played for her country at U-17 level and was part of the sides that finished third at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016, runners-up at the 2016 UEFA European U-17 Championship, and winners at the 2017 UEFA European U-19 Championship

  • Twice voted "Dare to Shine" Player of the Match at France 2018 so far

Spain v Nigeria: Group  - FIFA U-20 Women's  World Cup France 2018 Quarter Final - Peace Efih of Nigeria and Damaris Egurrola of Spain vie for the ball

That is why the Basque player is one of the first names on coach Pedro Lopez’s team sheet. Her work rate, support play and ability to get into the opposition box have been crucial to Spain’s run to the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018, though she is quick to play down her role: “That’s what you have to do when you play in that position: try to support your team-mates all over the pitch and work hard defensively, though I also try to get forward into attack.”

Egurrola is always striving to improve, and spends her free time watching her performances over and over again, and indeed any match that is put in front of her. “That’s how I correct things and try to get better,” she explained. “I focus above all on the position I play and I try to analyse things.”

Who better, then, than to look ahead to what we can expect of her side’s semi-final against France than the Spain midfielder, with Monday's match being a repeat of last year’s European U-19 Championship final - a game that the Spanish won. “My first memory of that game is the celebration afterwards, the euphoria we felt at coming back twice and winning in the last minute.” Egurrola played her part in that 3-2 win by scoring one of Spain’s goals.

France-Spain: the tactics “We’ll try to go out and play our game,” said Egurrola, who also has a fair idea what France will do. “I think it’ll be a similar game to the final. They’ll sit back with a 4-4-2, keep it very tight at the back and then hit on the counter.” That was how France’s goals came in that European U-19 final. Aware that she will have a lot of work to get through, Egurrola has also learned the lessons of the past well: “If we give the ball away, then we need to be very careful.”

Egurrola on Les Bleuettes​ “They’re very strong up front and their wingers are very fast and can take people on. They’re really well organised at the back too. We found it hard to play through them in the final, especially at the start, but we’ll see. Space will start opening up at some stage and we’ll make the most of it.”

Egurrola knows very well what she has to do on Monday: run hard, provide her team-mates with passing options, and cover as much ground as she can. She is ready for the challenge, however, aware that the final she has been dreaming of is within touching distance.