With Putellas, Spain tries to break through at women's Euro

With the best player in the world in the squad, Spain can finally call itself one of the title favorites entering a major women's soccer tournament.

Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas will lead Spain at this year's European Championship, where the Spaniards will try to break through after years of lackluster appearances on the international stage.

The tournament is scheduled from July 6-31 at 10 stadiums in eight cities in England, including the final at Wembley.

The Spanish team will be boosted by a significant growth of the sport in the country in recent years, with Barcelona winning its first Champions League title and Real Madrid creating its own women's team - all since the last World Cup in 2019.

Putellas highlights a golden generation of players and is among nine members of a Barcelona team that came just short of winning a second consecutive Champions League title in May. She was named the Champions League player of the season and was the tournament's top scorer with 11 goals. She also won both FIFA's and UEFA's awards for best player of the year.

'œShe's young and, best of all, is passionate about football and understands it very well, which is not something every player has,'ť Spain coach Jorge Vilda said of Putellas. 'œShe has so much quality, sees things before others and executes everything with pace and style.'ť

Putellas scored Spain's goal in a 1-1 draw against Italy on Friday in the team's final preparation match before it debuts at Euro against Finland on July 8.

It was Putellas' 100th match with Spain, making her the first women's player to reach the milestone with the national team.

'œI'm happy because I never thought I would reach this mark,'ť she said after Friday's match. 'œIt's the result of a lot of work through the years. Hopefully there will be many more matches to come, along with many titles as well.'ť

The draw against Italy extended an unbeaten streak for Spain that started in March 2020. The Spaniards were coming off a 7-0 rout of Australia in its previous preparation match.

Included in the team's golden generation of players are María León, Irene Paredes, Aitana Bonmati and new Manchester City signings Laia Aleixandri and Leila Ouahabi.

Spain has done well in youth tournaments recently, winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2018 with a team that included Claudia Pina, also a member of the Euro squad this month. The team will be missing a veteran, though, as Jennifer Hermoso was ruled out of the tournament because of a knee injury.

Spain, ranked at an all-time high No. 7 in the world, is in Group B along with Finland, Denmark and eight-time European champion Germany.

Spain's best finish at the women's Euro was a semifinal appearance in 1997. It reached the quarterfinals in 2013 and 2017.

It made it to the round of 16 of the 2019 World Cup in France, losing 2-1 to the United States. It has qualified for the final of every major tournament in the last nine years.


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