Image courtesy of www.sefutbol.com
Jorge Vilda: “I can’t wait to get started”
Employed by the Spanish Football Association (RFEF) since 2008, Jorge Vilda wasted little time in making his mark in the women’s game. Victorious twice at the UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship (2010 and 2011), Vilda also led his U-17 charges to third- and second-place finishes at the FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup, in 2010 and 2014 respectively, as well as guiding La Roja’s U-19 starlets to silver at consecutive editions of the UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship – in 2014 and 2015.
Having earned the chance to take over Spain’s senior side in late July, following the end of predecessor Ignacio Quereda’s 27-year reign, Vilda’s tenure will begin in testing fashion – Spain kicking off their qualifying campaign for the UEFA Women’s EURO Netherlands 2017 with away trips to Finland and Republic of Ireland. Clearly relishing the challenges of his new role, the 34-year-old coach, an ex-FC Barcelona and Real Madrid youth player, made time for a chat with Women’s Soccer United.
Women’s Soccer United: Jorge, how does it feel to have been appointed Spain’s senior coach?
Jorge Vilda: I’m very excited and really up for it. I’ve been involved in women’s football for a long time now and, while there’s a lot of responsibility [that goes with this job], I can’t wait to get started.
WSU: Does the fact you’ve been working for the RFEF for some time give you a head-start?
JV: Yes, of course. The working group is the same, the facilities are the same, you already know your colleagues, the training pitches – everything. Even the players, as in the senior squad there are loads of players who’ve worked with me at youth national-team level and that clearly helps too.
WSU: What do you feel are the key factors for making the jump from youth to senior international football?
JV: The most important thing is that they keep developing. When we call them up for the U-17s or U-19s it’s because we think they’ve got the potential to, in the future, reach the senior Selección. The thing is, every player develops differently, and there are some that manage to reach the standard required to play for the seniors and others that don’t. But that’s life and at the end of the day there aren’t many players that make it [to the very top]. You have to really fight for it.
WSU: While the likes of Virginia Torrecilla and Alexia Putellas have become starters for Spain’s senior side, having shone at youth level, contemporaries such as Nagore Calderón, Amanda Sampedro and Lola Gallardo are frequent squad members, without getting regular playing time. Can they make the breakthrough?
JV: You have to take into consideration the players they’ve got in front of them. Depending on their position, sometimes the path [to a starting spot] is more open and sometimes it’s more congested. In Lola’s case, for example, the goalkeeping position is one that we coaches all find hard to change, it’s perhaps harder to put your faith in a new player there because it’s a position where confidence is such a vital factor. In the case of Amanda and Nagore, I think that they’ve simply had some top players blocking their path, but they’re still young and I’m convinced that they’ll go on to make it. Not just as squad players either, but as starters and very important players for La Selección Absoluta.
WSU: What positive lessons can you draw from Spain’s performance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada?
JV: The first and biggest positive is that we qualified, which we did for the first time, which is a very big deal. Particularly because it has helped Spain’s profile as a women’s football nation. It was a major feat, above all because it was given good coverage in the media. People have learned more about women’s football, they saw that Spain have a lot of potential and that if we’d just managed to score one more goal in any of our three games we’d have reached the Round of 16. So, we’ve seen that we have a good side and that we’re in with a chance of making the next competition, the Women’s EURO, and fighting to go a long way.
WSU: Would you agree that Spain created plenty of chances but were let down by their finishing?
JV: Yes, our finishing let us down: players who would normally put away their chances didn’t do so. I think that a good way of measuring if a team are playing well or poorly is the number of scoring chances they create and, particularly in the first half against Brazil and the first half against Korea [Republic], I thought the team played pretty well and looked like the kind of side we want them to be.
WSU: As you mention, La Roja looked in total control against Brazil, the game turning after a one-on-one miss by Natalia Pablos – following a fabulous pass from Putellas – and A Seleção grabbing a goal on the counter-attack…
JV: Yes, Brazil hadn’t done anything prior to scoring their goal [on 44 minutes]. What’s more you could see in their faces that they were absolutely desperate, they didn’t know how to stop Spain playing. They [Brazil] came out stronger in the second half though and protected their lead well. When you concede a goal just before half-time it hits very hard mentally, and we weren’t able to turn things round.
WSU: In general terms, what did you make of the standard of football played in Canada?
JV: I think that the standard of women’s football is getting higher all the time. This was the first World Cup with 24 teams and you could see that for some of the national teams it was their first time and they were short of experience at that level, but there were a lot of good sides. I was impressed by the way Australia played, with a very young team, while I was also impressed by England. They deserve a lot of credit for finishing third and claiming bronze. France have a great team and are doing a very good job at every level: they’re going to achieve a major success soon. And as usual, Germany and USA were a cut above, though then you get teams like Japan who respond to the challenge and go toe-to-toe with them.
WSU: What did you make of the final? USA flew out of the blocks didn’t they?
JV: Yeah, it was a crazy final with loads of goals, which I think is always a good thing as far as the spectators are concerned. The strategic play of the United States, their set-piece play, was something that’s really worth a closer look because, to be honest, they’ve got an incredible repertoire. The way they come up with set plays and the way they put them into practice deserves closer study. It’s something we can learn from.
WSU: They certainly found the most effective way to break down the Japanese defence…
JV: Yes, it’s true. When your side has stronger, more powerful and more physical players, if you get your set plays right you know you’ve got a chance of doing damage. And that’s what happened.
WSU: How positive is it for women’s football that the Women’s World Cup (expanded to 24 teams) and the Women’s EURO (expanded to 16 teams) now feature more nations?
JV: Well, at the end of the day it is at final tournaments where real improvement is made and those are the competitions with the biggest reach. So, with 16 teams [at the EURO] there will be more countries certain to be involved, experiencing all the media interest and the fan attention at that tournament. In addition, I think that increasing the number of participants in these competitions is the way to keep the sport improving, as that way national teams in general will become better and better prepared. If you have a squad that you know is capable of reaching a final tournament, then that season the players, the coaches, the football association as a whole, put in a bigger effort, an extra push, to try and make a good impression at that competition. It’s a good thing for everybody, for every country and national team, that the final tournaments are being expanded.
WSU: Spain have been drawn in a tricky section in EURO 2017 qualifying, alongside Finland, Republic of Ireland, Portugal and Montenegro. Which teams you do you think carry the biggest threat?
JV: Finland are a team that are clearly physically stronger than us, they usually play in a very disciplined way and are usually very difficult to score against. If they manage to nick a goal against you via a set play or on the break, you’ve a very difficult game on your hands. Ireland are a team with a lot of heart, with players who battle really hard, with a lot of spirit, and never give up a game as lost, so they make life tough for you too. Portugal are doing very good work in growing women’s football. They’re trying to host as many tournaments and as many qualifying rounds as they can, which says a lot about how much faith they’re putting into this sport. They deserve a huge amount of credit for what they’re managing to achieve, despite having a small pool of registered players.
WSU: How much do you think it will help Portugal that they will be now be taking on the leading nations, year in year out, at the Algarve Cup?
JV: Yes, every year they host the Algarve Cup and will take on the best teams in the world, which can only make you improve. Getting the chance to compare yourself with and compete against the very best always makes you stronger.
WSU: Will Spain take part in the Algarve Cup or Cyprus Cup next year? The teams that got furthest in Canada were all involved in one or the other of those tournaments…
JV: We’re looking into the possibility, but we’ve still got scheduling problems. Of course it’s something that we’d like to do and, providing our league schedule allows us to, then yes we’d like to try and take part. It’s like I said earlier: the more you play against quality teams and the very top sides the more it pushes you to improve your own standards and subsequently go further [at tournaments].
WSU: Finally, how would you encourage girls and women in Spain to start playing, or to get back into, the beautiful game?
JV: Well, I’d say that in Spain, whether it be via the RFEF or the regional associations, we’re open to trying to help all the women and girls that want to get involved – be that as players, spectators, coaches or referees. We all want this sport to grow, to be a sport for everybody and one that we can all enjoy.
Spanish interview transcribed by Moisés Rivadulla (www.tradutorxurado.com)
UK-born but currently based in Spain, I’ve been covering men’s and women’s football for UEFA.com for several years, including trips to two Women’s U-19 European Championships