Spain’s Jorge Vilda Leads Team to Women’s World Cup Final
Spain's Jorge Vilda Navigates Challenges to Reach Women's World Cup Final
Once derided as a control freak struggling to manage his team, Jorge Vilda, the coach of Spain’s national women’s football team, now finds himself on the verge of etching his name in history at the Women’s World Cup. Despite internal strife and doubts about his capability, Vilda has led his team to the grandest stage of the tournament, setting up a showdown against England in the final.
This Sunday, a sell-out crowd of 75,000 at Sydney’s stadium will witness a historic clash between Spain and England, both striving to grasp the World Cup trophy for the first time in their history.
Spain’s journey to the final has been nothing short of remarkable. The team, which had never previously won a knockout game at the World Cup, has surprised fans and critics alike with their impressive run in Australia and New Zealand.
Looking back almost a year, their recent achievements would have appeared unlikely. Deep-seated discontent between the players and the Spanish football federation (RFEF), as well as with Vilda, had been brewing for some time.
The situation came to a head in September 2022 when 15 members of the squad emailed the RFEF, expressing their reluctance to be considered for selection due to their “emotional state.” While the specific grievances were never officially disclosed, Spanish media had previously reported that many players demanded Vilda’s dismissal.
Although the players later denied this claim, reports indicated a range of grievances regarding both on-field tactics and off-field management. Accusations of Vilda being “dictatorial” surfaced, along with concerns about his training methods and strategies. It was even reported that Vilda insisted on inspecting players’ hotel rooms before midnight to ensure they were sleeping on time. Allegations also surfaced that he wanted to know about players’ whereabouts and purchases if they went out.
Vilda, in the lead-up to the World Cup, downplayed the dispute, asserting that it was nearly resolved. However, among the 15 players who protested, only three were eventually called up to represent Spain.
Despite these tensions, a sense of unease persisted. Mapi Leon of Barcelona, one of the players who had protested, emphasized the need for change, stating, “I can’t go back, there has to be changes.”
Throughout the World Cup, Vilda has been fielding questions from international reporters about the internal strife. Though typically guarded, he broke his silence after Spain’s thrilling 2-1 victory over Sweden in the semi-finals, remarking that the turmoil had “strengthened all of us.”
Vilda expressed gratitude for the unwavering support of Luis Rubiales, the president of RFEF, and the entire federation. He acknowledged the challenges his family had faced during the tumultuous period.
Jorge Vilda’s path to success has been marked by dedication. Initially a promising player, his coaching journey was born out of necessity due to an injury. He rose through the ranks of the national women’s youth football teams, eventually taking the helm of the senior team in 2015.
Spain’s fortunes under Vilda’s leadership saw ups and downs. After a disappointing finish at the 2015 World Cup, his team made it to the round of 16 in the 2019 edition, only to be eliminated by the eventual champions, the United States. Despite the players’ undeniable talent, their inability to achieve greater success led to frustrations and objections.
Reports indicate that Rubiales took steps to address some of the players’ concerns, such as introducing a nutritionist and additional physios. There was also a greater emphasis on allowing players to spend time with their families during training camps, including the World Cup.
Luis Rubiales steadfastly defended Vilda, highlighting his commitment to the team and turning down lucrative offers from other teams to stay with Spain. Rubiales’ confidence in Vilda appears to have paid off as Spain stands poised on the cusp of a historic World Cup victory.