"They need to be a little quicker," says Manchester City's Spanish midfielder Vicky Losada as she urges Spain to "get on top" of England in tonight's quarter-final.
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Ahead of the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 quarter-final against England, Manchester City and Spain midfielder Vicky Losada spoke to the @womensfootball team.
The 31-year-old missed out on the finals after an injury-ravaged season, but has been working as a pundit for the BBC during the finals, and is happy to have had the opportunity to stay close to her national team in England.
This is the first time in many years that you're not on the pitch wearing the red shirt?
I've played every EURO and World Cup except the one that took place when I was five years old, I think. It is weird but I also had a bad year with injuries. So, when the squad [for the EURO] was being announced, my options [of being called-up] were minimal because I haven't been playing much. I miss football a lot.
What do you think about Spain in general?
Personally, I think those missing players [Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso] have really affected Spain mentally because I know them, and I could see it. Many times, football is about having a good state of mind. Although they won the first match 4-1, they weren't that comfortable; there were many positional changes. And then, you face a ruthless Germany that take advantage of every mistake you make.
And I think in the last match against Denmark, although we still had problems in front of goal, we saw a different Spain: they were more comfortable, they got into the right positions, reaching and looking to get into the box. I talk to them and I say: "Forget about everything bad that has happened, this is a golden opportunity."
What do you think Spain have to improve upon against England?
In front of goal, they need to be more confident. Lots of balls were played into the area… I see a lack of confidence to go after them and chase down those second balls. And I've seen Spain play the ball quicker, breaking through the lines, and with more decisive link-up play.
Spain have their full-backs hugging the touchline really high up the pitch and are susceptible to counterattacks, so you can't make one mistake because Beth Mead, especially, is on fire and Lauren Hemp is very quick – she's my team-mate and is very, very quick. But I think they need to be a little quicker and enjoy their football; they have to show us the kind of football they were playing in the qualifiers.
Which Spain players have made you go: 'Wow, this is going to be her EURO'?
For me, Aitana Bonmatí is among the top-five in the world – I've always said it. Aitana and Patri Guijarro are world-class players. Beyond that, I think Mapi León and Irene Paredes started a little bit shakily and not as solid defensively as they usually are, but you saw that they were more switched on against Denmark.
And a player that I really like is Athenea del Castillo. She's someone who's very good and confident in one-on-one situations. She's a unique player and I hope I get to see her in the game against England because she could be a real threat.
How do you think England coach Sarina Wiegman will approach the game?
I think they'll try to disrupt Spain's football – the rhythm, TikiTaka. England rely on playing passes through Keira Walsh, their defensive midfielder. She gets on the ball and is the one who links up the defence and the attack. If you press her, she doesn't like that. I always say to her: "You're really Spanish!" – because she doesn't like it when people are aggressive with her and stop her. And if we don't let her turn, part of the game will already be won. And beyond that, [we have to cut out] the long balls from Millie Bright, the right centre-back, towards Hemp and Mead.
How heavy does the pressure of expectation weigh on England?
I think that the team is going through a really bright spell after the big victories against Northern Ireland and Norway, and that they might even have had too many high points up to now. It's a good time for Spain to get on top of them right from the outset and say: "Here we are." But without a doubt, the whole country is behind England, everyone is absolutely expecting them to get to the final.
How do you think the game will go?
England are scared of not having the ball, Spain stand out for their possession-based style. I think they'll think that it's difficult for us to score, so they'll be chasing after the ball. That's why I think that Spain need to be more aggressive, to make the ball move even more, and to create scoring opportunities from the first minute, since I think England will let us play so that they can hit us on the counterattack with Mead and Hemp.
We can't concede early goals again. I hope they've learnt their lesson and that they'll be switched on from the first minute, and motivated to win the match. Things change very quickly in football, and I hope England will be the motivation that Spain needs, that we can make it to the semi-finals, and the team can feel more comfortable. I'm very optimistic, and I'm sure it will be a great match.