Athenea del Castillo said Spain were “emptied” in their 3-2 Nations League defeat of Sweden after a tough month of fighting for respect and better conditions following their World Cup final victory.
“The team was emptied, we gave our all and luckily we were able to achieve that victory,” said Del Castillo, who was one of two of Spain’s World Cup winners not to sign the statement supported by 39 players that listed their demands and said they would be stepping back from selection for the national team until they were met, only for 23 of those to be called up anyway.
“The team has given everything. We are happy, we have finally played again, which in the end was what we wanted. They have been difficult days for everyone, we were in a very complicated situation. In the end we have shown that we are a true team and we want to represent our country in the best possible way.”
Del Castillo’s first-half strike was fumbled into the goal by Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic to draw Spain level towards the end of a bruising first half. Eva Navarro gave Spain the lead but Lina Hurtig equalised before Spain were awarded a penalty for a perceived foul by Amanda Ilestedt, who was sent off, and Mariona Caldentey converted.
Head coach, Montse Tomé, who according to reports in Spain is on borrowed time after stepping up from assistant to replace the sacked Jorge Vilda, said the match “went from less to more”, praising the second-half performance.
“The players managed to find themselves on the field, which is the place where they feel best,” she said. “In the second half, we saw the team play very well, we found space and circulation. It is a great victory for players who deserve the best.”
Tomé said she had “confidence in my work”. “The only thing I needed was for them to let us work. We haven’t been able to these days, the people who have managed to make this conflict less have been the RFEF [Royal Spanish Football Federation] with the CSD [national sports council], with the help of the players and those of us who have been able to do something,” she said.
“The first days of the training camp did not allow us to focus on football. I did not feel pressure, I felt like starting to do everything that the coaching staff had worked on during these weeks, and to be able to train and think about football.
“They are soccer players who enjoy what they do, and I have been happy to see them enjoy.
“I enjoyed it a lot, it was my debut in a difficult week, but I had confidence in the work, I felt that we could change that energy and focus it on football. The entire staff and I have managed to make it possible.”