Cata Coll arrived for her first Women’s World Cup as Spain’s number two goalkeeper having never played a senior international. On Sunday, she is set to be her country’s last line of defence in the final against England.
A bench-sitter in La Roja’s three group matches, Coll has been so impressive since being given her debut in Spain’s last 16 match against Switzerland that some are talking about her as a prototype for a new breed of women goalkeepers.
Goalkeepers in women’s football have been much-maligned over the years and improving them is the business of FIFA Senior Football Expert Pascal Zuberbuehler.
The Swiss has seen much to like at the World Cup.
More saves, more keepers coming to claim crosses, as well as a greater link between goalkeepers and the defensive line have made it a tournament to savour for the former Switzerland custodian.
Few goalkeepers have excited him as much as Coll, however.
“She’s 22-years-old. She made her first appearance in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup here in Australia, New Zealand. This is unbelievable,” he told reporters at a FIFA technical briefing in Sydney this week.
“How she plays is impressive, how she’s involved in the team is impressive, the build up fantastic, under feet, amazing. It’s really great to see how she’s playing out of the back and also to see that she hasn’t really made many saves in these three games so far.”
That Coll has made only six saves during three knockout matches while conceding three goals is crucial to Zuberbuehler, who views it as the job of the goalkeeper and her defence to prevent opponents getting shots off.
“She’s really a very compact goalkeeper for a young age,” he added. “She plays very high up. She takes risks but she’s so well connected to the team.”
Coll’s comfort on the ball and ability to play so high up the pitch may derive from the fact that as a girl growing up in Mallorca she played as a centre-half.
Sunday will actually be her third World Cup final as she co-captained the Spain team that won the under-17 world title in 2018 and lost the under-20 final to Japan later the same year.
Coll got her chance at this World Cup after Misa Rodriguez conceded four times in the humiliating 4-0 loss to Japan in their final group stage match.
Some of her teammates have admitted that Coll playing out from the back occasionally causes them a few jitters and Zuberbuehler said it would be interesting to see how England reacted to a style that worked so well against Sweden in the semifinals.
“Sweden attacked Cata Coll, they tried to put pressure on her, but it was for nothing,” he added.
“It’d be interesting to see if England also plays like this. Do they attack her? Because she is fantastic, brilliant, first touch, one touch, two touch, she has always options.”
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