Galán shares burden of Spanish hopes

One of Spain's three captains, María Galán spoke for all her colleagues when she labelled Sunday's Group B meeting with the Netherlands "the most important game of our whole lives".

Centre-back María Galán is one of three captains in the Spain ranks
Centre-back María Galán is one of three captains in the Spain ranks ©Sportsfile

If Spain are the most democratic side at the European Women's Under-19 Championship, then María Galán's words carried the weight of a party statement. "It will be the most important game of our whole lives," she said, speaking for every one of her colleagues as she contemplated Sunday's vital Group B meeting with the Netherlands.

Galán wears the armband on the pitch, but she is just one of three captains in the Spain ranks and conferred busily with goalkeeper and fellow skipper Sandra Paños at the team's hotel – María Victoria Losada completes the troika – before delivering a message both could agree upon.

"The game will be a final for us," she said, aware that while victory will guarantee progress to the semi-finals, anything less would see them pipped by France should Les Bleuettes defeat the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. "We can't afford not to win and it will be the most important game of our whole lives. We'll try our best to win and go through to the semi-finals. It will be difficult but not impossible."

Section leaders on six points, the Netherlands have yet to concede in their two games and are fabled for their defensive mettle. "We saw their game against France. They're big and strong, and they play a different style of football to us," said Galán. "We like to have the ball and pass it, while their game is more physical."

Despite the scale of the challenge, the centre-back and her team-mates will draw strength from their collective will, which frustrated France for long periods during Thursday's 1-0 loss and suitably reflects their novel approach to captaincy. "Our team doesn't want only one person to be the captain and responsible for everything," said Galán.

"We think it's better to have three captains, so that if the team needs something, any player can approach one of the three captains and we'll take a decision among the three of us. The whole team is happy with the work we are doing. We have a really good team and we all get on really well."

Ángel Vilda's charges like to spread the scoring around too: six different players registered in their 6-0 success against FYROM in their Group B opener. Galán broke the deadlock in that match and also prompted the own goal that sealed Spain's qualification for the finals as they downed Russia 1-0 on 1 April.

"It was incredible," she recalled. "I hit the ball and two Russians got mixed up and put it in. I can't describe how it felt." Ever keen to let others share the spotlight, however, she downplayed her role as a goalscoring defender. "We have a lot of players who can score and I don't think I'm important for that," she explained. "If I score, then great, but if not I can do other things."

These are bright times for the 19-year-old, who joined Spanish champions Rayo Vallecano de Madrid last summer and helped them defend their title. "It was a great experience to win the league," she said. "I didn't participate much because I'm one of the youngest, but I've learnt a lot already and they're great players."