The Spain manager Jorge Vilda has hailed Sarina Wiegman’s European title rivals as the “best England team ever” before their Arnold Clark Cup meeting at Carrow Road on Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve prepared well for this game, they’ve been training really well and we’ve been doing exercises based on dealing with high intensity opponents,” said Vilda. “I personally believe that this is perhaps the best England team ever. They’ve got plenty of youth in the side, players who play with coverage.”
England host Spain in the second round of the inaugural friendly tournament that includes Germany and Canada and Vilda believes it is “potentially the best game of the tournament”.
For the three European teams it is an opportunity to test players and formations before this summer’s Euros, while for the Olympic champions Canada they can ramp up their preparations for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
Spain conceded in the 88th minute of their opening match against Germany to deny them three points against the eight-time European champions at the Riverside. While Millie Bright’s stunning volley in a blistering first half for England against Canada was undone by a shift of momentum in the second that led to the Manchester City forward Janine Beckie’s equaliser.
The rise of Spain on the international stage has been rapid and fuelled by impressive development of the all-conquering Barcelona, with 10 of the 22 player squad and nine of the starting XI against Germany from the Champions League holders. “They have developed very well. We know they have a lot of Barcelona players and they’re very tactical and technical,” said Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the Euro 2017 title on home soil. “They tied the first game, but before that they won lots of games, so we’re aware. But we also think we have the opportunity to harm them too.”
The England manager was coy when asked what she thought about Spain’s Ballon d’Or, Fifa Best and Uefa player of the year Alexia Putellas. “She’s a great player, and a lot of people think she’s a great player,” said Wiegman with a smile.
Spain’s fulcrum was more forthcoming in her praise of her team’s opponents on Sunday. “England are a great team, one of the best in the world,” said Putellas. “I always love playing against big teams like them.
“I believe that we have improved a lot since [Spain last played England, securing a 1-0 win at] the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. We are a better team now. Tomorrow will be a really tough test. It will be a really high quality contest. We’ll need to be at the top of our game to win. We need to do the little things right.”
With a crowd of 8,769 in Middlesbrough for England’s game against Canada, Spain will have a chance to see what it feels like to play in front of a hostile crowd in Norwich. “We need to play well and try and quieten down the crowd because they’ll be a lot of fans on England’s side, like there will be in the Euros this summer,” said Putellas. “That is exactly what we need to do if we’re going to be on the right side of the result come the end of the game tomorrow.”
For Wiegman, the result is not the most important thing, with Euro preparations uppermost in her mind. “Of course we want to approach every game to win but also we know this is a step in the preparations for our Euros in the summer,” she said. “So, yes, we want to win, but [against Canada we] had a tie and we just stay neutral because we know we’re working on how we want to take the next step. It’s nice when you win and it gives us a good energy but we shouldn’t be urgent about it because it’s a step in our progress to the Euros.”
After Sunday’s double header, England play Germany in the evening game on Wednesday at the Molineux after Spain face Canada, to complete the tournament.