Spain booked their berth to the quarter-finals after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Denmark, who seemed to be depending on another rescue act from captain Pernille Harder which, to little surprise, was just a bit too much against a side with Spain’s caliber.
The game began as one would have expected. Spain dominated possession, passing the ball around neatly and building up their attacks steadily. However, it was Denmark who looked the likelier of the two teams to open the scoring, having as many as three opportunities borne out of transition play. However, the lack of a killer final ball and/or collecting the ball neatly to shoot on goal would go on to cost them.
Spain grew into the game as the half wore on, creating chances and testing Lene Christensen. However, the way Denmark defended made the Spanish attack look toothless, even after all the possession that they had.
Spain made three changes at half-time to shake things up a bit, with Olga Carmona, Esther González, and Marta Cardona coming on for Leila Ouahabi, Lucía García, and Sheila García.
Spain were always knocking on the door, having 17 shots (5 on target), but the Danish defense was determined. Just when it seemed like we would witness the first goalless stalemate of the tournament, La Roja pounced with a strike that broke all Danish dreams.
It was Madridista Olga Carmona and ex-Madridista Marta Cardona who combined for the goal. Mariona Caldentey collected the ball in midfield, used her change of pace efficiently to free herself from her marker, slowed down, tricked the defender which a change of pace again, and slid a through pass to Olga, whose cross found the head of Cardona in the 90th minute of the game. Spain will now face England in the quarter-final.
How did Real Madrid’s players perform?
Athenea del Castillo got the nod to start on the left wing this game after coming off the bench in the previous two group games, playing 80 minutes before being replaced by Laia Aleixandri.
The 21-year-old didn’t have a great game by her standards. Unlike the previous two games, where she either didn’t have many minutes to make an impact or didn’t receive the ball enough, Athenea received the ball enough times in wide spaces, where she can be the most lethal from. Apart from a nutmeg in the 33rd minute, there wasn’t much noteworthy about her performance.
I don’t want to be sounding too harsh or cynical with my analysis, but I am just saying what I saw, and she definitely could’ve played much better. She lost possession or got tackled by her marker more often than not.
On the bright side, she was always willing to take on defenders, which is a positive sign and one that Spain coach Jorge Vilda must consider while choosing his XI for the heavyweight clash against England. Athenea could very well be that X-factor in attack. Not just that, but if today’s game was anything to go by, she will be a big defensive help against the likes of Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp.
Moving on to Olga, if there’s one word to describe her performance, it’s impactful. She was an instant upgrade over Leila Ouahabi in the left back position, and was very menacing with her crosses. Olga combined well with her teammates and timed her runs on the overlap and underlap to perfection, one of which led to the goal. Additionally, she defended well and was a live wire on the pitch during her 45 minutes. Olga alone had four shots to her name. A fantastic second-half performance and one which should be enough to convince Jorge Vilda to start her on the left side of defense against England.
Esther González cut a frustrating figure as the striker. And I think it’s mostly down to the way Spain play. Lucía García was pretty much anonymous in the first half, and the same happened with Esther.
Esther had no shots during her 45 minutes and you could count the number of touches she had on your fingers. Even then, she tried to drop deep, away from Denmark’s low block, to get involved in the game and help create something. I think she should be starting alongside Mariona Caldentey and one of Athenea/Marta Cardona in a front three against England.
Talking about the quarter-final in brief, England will not be too worried about Spain as they haven’t been able to produce their best form. Their attack lacks venom, while England’s attack is in red-hot form. The Lionesses scored 14 goals in the group stage, and conceded none. They will surely be one of the favorites for the tournament now. It will most certainly be a mouth-watering quarter-final between these two teams.
N/A: Didn’t play.