Spain coach Jorge Vilda has said the team felt « sadness and anger » over the « big shock » of captain Alexia Putellas’ knee injury, but backed them to rise to the challenge of competing to win Euro 2022 without the Ballon d’Or winner.
Spain play Finland in their opening Group B match in Milton Keynes on Friday, days after star player Putellas was ruled out of the tournament with a torn cruciate knee ligament injury suffered in training.
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The squad were already without record goalscorer and Ballon d’Or runner-up Jenni Hermoso, who has not recovered from a knee injury in time to be involved in England.
« It was a big shock for everyone, for the team and for her, » Vilda said in a news conference on Thursday, when asked about losing Putellas. « [Tuesday] was a tough day. But the next day the team came together. We can’t let this [opportunity] go because of the feelings of sadness and anger we have because of what’s happened to Alexia. We have to come together, be strong, and prepare for the first game. »
« Losing Alexia is deeply felt, not just in a footballing sense but also as a group, » he added. « But we have absolute confidence in the 23 players we have available to play tomorrow. We have different alternatives. Our philosophy and way of playing comes above any one player. »
Spain have called up rising star Amaiur Sarriegi, 21, to replace Putellas in the squad.
The Real Sociedad forward scored 17 goals for his club last season and top scored for Spain in World Cup qualifying with 11 goals in five appearances.
« When you meet adversity, you overcome it, » defender Irene Paredes said on Thursday. « We’re a resilient team. A lot has happened to us, but we have to live with it. It’s football, there will always be injuries… Tomorrow is our moment, we begin, and we’re ready. »
Spain will go on to face Germany and Denmark in Group B, with the top two teams advancing to the quarterfinals.
« This is the fourth time we’ve been at a European Championship. We have the best team we’ve ever had, » Vilda said. « I wouldn’t change any of my players for any other. Our challenge is to go as far as possible, knowing where we come from. Every game here is a battle. »