The sun was out at Stade Océane as it was unbelievably hot before kick-off after getting a programme and taking in a hot dog in the foyer it was time to enter the stadium, beautiful inside as it was outside as the teams warmed up and the teams were read out it set the scene for the final group game between Spain and China. Jorge Vilda had once again tinkered with the line up naming a different line up for the third game running.
The teams walked out and stood for their national anthem and as they counted down to kick off it became real that was about to see the game I had counted down too seeing myself. I was gutted to not to see Vicky Losada play but was so happy to see Lucia Garcia and Leila Ouahabi starting for Spain.
The countdown hit zero and China kicked off and Spain hit the ground running trying to hit the Chinese defence with quick attacks but it didn’t come to much with Lucia Garcia and Jennifer Hermoso doing a lot of the work in the final third. The first attack of note came when Caldentey cut inside on the wing and delivered a ball into the box that Lucia Garcia attacked and prodded past the keeper only for it to go agonisingly across the goal and not becoming the opening goal.
On the 32nd minute, Spain once again were creator after a lot of possession play as Caldentey received the ball of Jennifer Hermoso she ran at the Chinese defence who backed off causing her to shoot but pull it just wide of the goal. Spain were pretty comfortable and had a lot of the possession, Lucia Garcia chased down everything and showed some real skill on the wing in front of us.
The 39th minute saw Jennifer Hermoso get her head on an effort that she directed towards the corner but just as the Chinese keeper would be named the player of the match, she pulled off her first great save to deny the opening goal. Spain at the end of the first half pulled off some Villa Ladies type play were being totally in control but switched off for last 5-10 minutes of the half as China broke down the wing but the ball into the box was wasted as it went over the keepers head and out for a goal kick. But thankfully the little dip in concentration didn’t cost Spain as they got to the halftime whistle at 0-0 with Spain having most the possession and most of the chances.
The second half was a lot of the same with Spain being in control from back to front they would win the ball back and pressure China into mistakes but just didn’t have that killer pass or ball. The first real chance of the half came on the hour mark as Patri Guijarro had space open in front of her and as she hit the shot low and hard and it looked goal bound the Chinese keeper once again got down low and pushed it out, Lucia Garcia pure passion for the ball kept it alive and kept it in but couldn’t make anything out of the attack. The game was a lot of Spain on the ball but couldn’t make anything happen from it, they were solid at the back as Paredes, Leon and Leila Ouahabi was dealing with whatever China could muster up in an attack. The next chance came on the 83rd minute with Patri Guijarro once again finding herself in a familiar place as she hit the shot once again that looked goal bound but the Chinese keeper got down once again to push the ball away.
Two minutes later one of the best saves I’ve seen live was pulled off again by the Chinese keeper as Spain came forward in numbers. A deep ball came into the box and as it came back across Patri Guijarro lifted it over the Chinese defence to Jennifer Hermoso who hit a delicate lob shot that looked destined for the top corner even 7/8th’s of the way there but an outstretched strong hand tipped the ball over the ball keeping it 0-0. Some lax defending near the end by Spain nearly cost them tho as Irene Paredes without looking passed to Maria Leon who was doing her lace behind her cause China to get in behind but Maria Leon, who was fantastic all game again won the ball back with a last-ditch tackle.
Shimeng Peng was named player of the match which would be a surprise to no one that watched the game as she kept China in the game throughout. Some of her saves were sublime in the game. On a Spanish side, I would have said Lucia Garcia was player of the match, her work rate can never be questioned as she chases everything down and fights for every ball, she was unlucky not to score for Spain. I was gutted Vicky Losada and Aitana Bonmatí didn’t come on the pitch as feel they could have made a big difference.
A draw saw both teams qualify for the round of 16 with Spain finishing second and China in third place. Spain will now look towards a meeting with the USA or Sweden in the round of 16. Spain also created a piece of footballing history for themselves being the first time they have qualified for the second round, in their second tournament.
Overall was so happy to get to see Spain play in the sun in the World Cup, many players I’ve watched but to see them live and in person was a real treat.