The year 2010 was a stellar one for Spain. And not just their FIFA World Cup-winning men.
In 2009 Spain had reached the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final only to suffer a crushing 7-0 loss to Germany. The Spanish recovered, though, and made it to Nyon the following year, having picked up a 21-0 win against Armenia in the first qualifying round.
Making her competitive debut in that game was goalkeeper Dolores Gallardo, and although she did not start the other two matches at that stage, by the second qualifying round she was first choice and conceded only once in three matches as Spain earned their finals place.
It was in Nyon that 'Lola' really shone, though. She helped Spain to a 3-0 semi-final defeat of the Netherlands, following which the Republic of Ireland stunned Germany in the other semi. So it was Ireland that Spain faced in the final and Gallardo, already excellent in the 0-0 draw over 100 minutes, then saved her first two penalties in the shoot-out, which her side won 4-1.
"The key to penalties is to be absolutely focused on what you are doing, to decide exactly which way you are going to go, and then not to change your mind," Gallardo told UEFA.com, having ultimately conceded just once in 489 minutes of action during Spain's run.
Her memorable year did not end there as she travelled to Trinidad and Tobago for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup and played a key role in Spain achieving third place – Gallardo was awarded the Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper, matching Iker Casillas's achievement in South Africa earlier that summer.
Dolores, who models herself on Villarreal CF's Diego López, was actually discovered by her first club, Sevilla FC, playing for a boys' team. She is now a prized asset in the women's game and after travelling to the 2011 U19 finals with the Spain squad, left Sevilla for Sporting de Huelva. Her agility, reflexes and personality have already won her honours and there should be more to come.
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