Spain is expecting anything but a walk in the park when it faces Zambia in its second Women’s World Cup match and key midfielder Alexia Putellas is ready to play a part if selected, coach Jorge Vilda said on Tuesday.
Twice Ballon d’Or winner Putellas came on as a second-half substitute in Spain’s opening 3-0 win over Costa Rica last Friday as she continues her recovery from a serious knee injury.
Vilda said the 29-year-old was “fine” but would not commit to starting her at Eden Park on Wednesday against the 77th-ranked Africans.
“In the 15 minutes that she played the other day, she showed that everything was fine,” he told reporters at the stadium.
“The training sessions, she’s completed them very well and kept up a very high rhythm. It’s an ongoing process, and we’re very happy with her progress.
“As always, what can I say about the starting lineup? I can’t tell you who’s going to play, or who’s not going to play. We’re not going to give the other team the advantage of knowing that.”
Putellas was not greatly missed against Costa Rica in large part because Aitana Bonmati ran rampant in midfield, offering the tantalising prospect of the Barcelona teammates playing in tandem later in the tournament.
“What Aitana does on the field speaks for itself. She’s an excellent player,” added Vilda. “She dominates all facets of the game.
“She’s a very complete player with a competitive mentality, which means she improves every day.”
Zambia lost 5-0 to former champion Japan in its opening match on its World Cup debut in Hamilton last weekend but Vilda thought the scoreline was a reflection of the quality of the Nadeshiko rather than the deficiencies of the Africans.
“It’s a very important game, and I’m expecting a very dangerous Zambia. I’m expecting a team that’s going to defend well and is going to be very, very dangerous on the counterattack,” he added.
“Tomorrow won’t be an easy game at all.”
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