Spain boss Vilda says family have

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When the full-time whistle sounded at Eden Park to confirm Spain had made it to their first Women’s World Cup final, La Roja’s players celebrated wildly together on the pitch.

There was one notable absentee as the likes of Aitana Bonmati and Jenni Hermoso piled on top of team-mates after a historic win over Sweden.

Manager Jorge Vilda, along with some of his coaching staff, stayed on the sidelines for several minutes watching the celebrations from a distance.

He eventually joined his jubilant players, some of them overcome with emotion, on the pitch before gathering them in a huddle to congratulate them.

Spain’s passage to the final in Sydney has been achieved despite a cloud hanging over the squad, with Vilda’s coaching abilities and relationships with his best players the subject of fierce criticism – resulting in many of their stars being frozen out.

“I find it fascinating that Spain as a nation are divided about getting to a World Cup final,” former England midfielder Fara Williams said on BBC One.”Some people were not wanting them to get there because of all the issues behind the scenes between some of the players and the coach.”

Spain reaching the final in only their third World Cup is an achievement in itself. That they have done it despite a backdrop of controversy off the field is even more remarkable.

Jorge Vilda in a huddle with his players after Spain beat Sweden to reach the Women's World Cup final
Jorge Vilda in a huddle with his players after Spain beat Sweden to reach the Women’s World Cup final

‘My family has suffered’

A feud between Spain’s players and Vilda last year almost derailed their World Cup campaign before it began, when the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) claimed 15 members of its national team said they would resign if he did not step down.

That was denied by the players, but a stand-off ensued amid reports of concern over training methods and inadequate game preparation.

Spain’s federation backed Vilda, who froze out the 15 from his squad before welcoming three of them back for the World Cup.

That trio – forward Mariona Caldentey, midfielder Bonmati and defender Ona Batlle – started Tuesday’s semi-final before Spain moved one win from World Cup glory.

Among those who have not returned are several star players for Champions League winners Barcelona, including midfielder Patri Guijarro, defender Mapi Leon, forward Claudia Pina and goalkeeper Sandra Panos.

Vilda, who has been in charge since 2015, said: “Once again, I value my players a lot. The end result is a learning process which has made us all stronger.”

Last September, Vilda said: “I wouldn’t wish what I’m going through on anyone. I’m with those players who want to be part of this national team.”

After seeing his side defeat Sweden, Vilda said his family had “suffered this year”.

“The first thing that goes through your head after winning is you think about loved ones and everything that has happened this year,” he added.

“The support of [RFEF president] Luis Rubiales and everyone at the federation means so much and will always stay with me, as well as that of my family because they have suffered this year.

“Now we can file it away and put it behind us and think about the future, and think that we deserve to be where we are.”

‘These scenes are phenomenal’

Spain, who are sixth in Fifa’s world rankings, now await the winner of the second semi-final between Australia and European champions England which takes place on Wednesday (09:00 BST).

Tuesday’s match was drifting towards extra time before substitute Salma Paralluelo put Spain ahead with nine minutes remaining.

In a dramatic finish, Sweden equalised through Rebecka Blomqvist’s 88th-minute goal, only for captain Olga Carmona to produce a stunning winner 93 seconds later.

“It’s surprising because with all of what’s gone on Spain have shown a togetherness here that they have never shown in tournament football,” added Williams.

“These scenes are phenomenal. To think that Spain left so many of their first-team players at home. It’s crazy.”

‘One step from glory’

At the age of 19, Paralluelo had made a real impact coming off the bench to follow up her extra-time winner in the quarter-final against the Netherlands with Spain’s first against Sweden.

“It was a very tough game. It could have been difficult to recover from their goal, but we’ve shown that this team can deal with anything,” said Paralluelo, who became the second teenager to score in a Women’s World Cup semi-final, after Kara Lang at the age of 16 for Canada in 2003.

“All of us are extremely proud of everything we have done. We’re just one step away from glory. We took this little step, and now we need that final push.”

Goalkeeper Cata Coll made two important saves against Sweden, including one to deny her Barcelona team-mate Fridolina Rolfo.

Coll, 22, only made her senior Spain debut in the last-16 win over Switzerland on 5 August, replacing first choice Misa Rodriguez. Coll is now set to appear in the World Cup final.

“We now have three excellent keepers of a very high level,” said Vilda. “It is something the Spanish team were hoping to have.”

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