The trophy is freshly polished and the Estadio Charrua is ready for the final showdown. Sixteen teams travelled to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and now just two remain. Spain and Mexico will battle it out for the title on Saturday – but how did they get this far and what makes them potential world champions? FIFA.com gives three reasons why both teams have propelled themselves to the top two steps of the podium.
Three players – Catalina Coll, Eva Navarro and Claudia Pina – have already played at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2016 in Jordan and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France this year. Their considerable experience means coach Toña Is will entrust them with the task of leading their team. Having lifted the trophy at this summer’s UEFA European Women’s U-17 Championship, they now have their sights set on global success. The players will be thinking their time has come and will be full of confidence heading into the decider.
Ability to control the game
Spain are capable of dictating play at will. The team have been comfortable in possession throughout the tournament and are happy to pass the ball effortlessly among themselves, often relegating their opponents to the role of spectators in the process. The Europeans play with energy and enthusiasm, with a varied and attractive attacking style that can deliver pace down both wings and through the middle. The players’ flexibility and technical ability make it impossible to work out where their next attack is coming from.
The statistics speak for themselves. Spain have already scored 13 goals at this tournament from 100 shots – more than any other team in Uruguay. As well as strikers Claudia Pina, Eva Navarro and Salma Paralluelo, midfield playmaker Irene Lopez has already scored three times, most recently with a stunning strike against New Zealand in the semi-final. Yet this goalscoring threat also comes with remarkable defensive stability. Spain have conceded just two goals in the tournament so far, demonstrating how effectively their attack and defence work together.
"I prefer to play against strong opponents who are quick and have similar skills to us,” said Nicole Perez after arriving in Uruguay. Mexico have certainly shown that they can up their game and deliver their very best performances when it matters. After a disappointing 0-0 draw in their opening game against South Africa, the team beat Brazil and drew with Japan to reach the knockout stages.
Giving up is not an option for Mexico – their belief in themselves and their own abilities is much too high for that. Head coach Monica Vergara's side fell behind twice in their quarter-final against Ghana, only to equalise twice and eventually win on penalties. As well as having a positive mental attitude, Mexico also have Perez and Alison Gonzalez in their ranks – two technically-adept players capable of shooting with power and making the difference in a game at any time.
Mexico have never reached the semi-finals of a U-17 Women’s World Cup before, let alone reached the final. Simply reaching the decider is already a huge success for coach Vergara’s side, placing all the pressure of winning the title squarely on Spain’s shoulders. This creates an impressive sense of calm in a Mexico squad who see each other not just as team-mates but as family. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain – and in a final that poses such a formidable mental challenge, that is no bad thing.