Monday 21 January 2019, 08:00

Paredes: Spain are on the up

  • Spain and PSG defender Irene Pardes talks exclusively to

  • The 27-year-old played all three La Roja games at 2015 Women's World Cup

  • Paredes: "We’re in a better position than we were ahead of Canada"

Spain coach Jorge Vilda is in no doubt about the importance of Irene Paredes to his side: “Players of her calibre have a lot to offer the national team, even when they’re only 80 per cent fit.” The player herself smiled and set her coach straight: “It’s nice to get support like that, but I don’t think it’s enough just to compete, especially when you look at the group of players we’ve got.”

An undisputed Roja mainstay, Paredes knows very well how fierce the competition for places is in a team that has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent times.

The defender, who started all three of Spain’s matches at Canada 2015 – their debut FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance – is understandably looking forward to France 2019.

Spain's Group B matches
Saturday 8 JuneSpain v South AfricaLe Havre
Wednesday 12 JuneGermany v SpainValenciennes
Monday 17 JuneChina PR v SpainLe Havre

“So much has changed. The standard of football in Spain in general and the standard of the players have got better and better,” she said. “You can see that in the way we qualified, in the friendlies we play. I honestly think we’re in a better position than we were ahead of Canada.”

That said, she is keen to play down expectations: “Spain are on the up but we’re novices when it comes to World Cups and European Championships. We haven’t played that much against the world’s big teams, though we do have the quality to beat anyone. I’m not going to set any specific objective for this national team but I’m not setting any limits for it either.”

The PSG central defender has been recalled to the Roja squad after overcoming ankle and tibia injuries, a concern for any player, especially in a World Cup year. So how does she go about giving her all while avoiding the risk of injury?

“You just don’t think about,” came the reply. “You can pick up an injury when you least expect it, in the silliest of ways. The only thing we can do is look after ourselves day in, day out. The thing is, you have to give your all in these next few months because if you don’t, then you won’t make it to the World Cup. There’s too much competition and the standard is so high.”

The lowdown on Irene Paredes

  • Defender, 27 years old

  • A graduate in Sport and Exercise Science

  • Clubs: Zarautz (2007-08), Real Sociedad (2008-2011), Athletic Bilbao (2011-2016), Paris Saint-Germain (2016-present)

  • Honours: Spanish league (2016), Coupe de France (2018)

  • Named in the inaugural FIFPro Women’s World XI in 2017

Work to be done Having qualified for France 2019 with eight wins out of eight and conceded just two goals in the process, Spain have been beset by a familiar problem in recent friendlies: a shortage of goals.

One of the team’s captains, Paredes has a clear idea of where they need to improve: “We didn’t have much strength in depth at EURO 2017, and though we created a lot of chances, we didn’t take many. We had possession but we couldn’t translate it into goals. We do have very skilful forwards with a lot of talent though, and we’re working very hard to sort it out. And that’s what friendlies are for, for us to prepare and iron these things out.”

Recalling that World Cup debut in Canada, Paredes has vivid memories of the large crowds in the stadiums. Four years on, she believes the experience she has picked up in playing big games has helped her mature. “It makes you a more complete player,” she explained.

Paredes is already living and breathing the World Cup at her club, where she has been discussing the draw with her team-mate Wang Shuang, the China PR midfielder. The two will be facing off in Group B, which also features Germany and South Africa.

One thing she is sure of is that the upcoming World Cup will increase the visibility of the women’s game. “I hope people can see all the games and really get into it,” she said before rounding off with a promise: “We’ll do everything we can to make sure the results come our way.”

Did you know?

  • Paredes’ club and international duties almost led to her being suspended from her degree course for not attending class.