AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Humiliated following a blowout loss to Japan in the group stage finale, Spain quickly recovered to show that La Roja should still be considered a contender to win the Women’s World Cup.
Aitana Bonmati scored twice on Saturday as Spain routed Switzerland 5-1 and became the first team to advance to the quarterfinals. La Roja had never before won a game in the knockout stage in any major tournament, and finally advanced in their third World Cup appearance.
Spain rolled through their first two games of the tournament — wins against Costa Rica and Zambia — but Japan dealt La Roja a humbling setback in a 4-0 defeat that forced the team to regroup.
Switzerland’s Noelle Maritz, left, and Spain’s Athenea Del Castillo battle for the ball. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga).
“Sometimes when you lose like the other day, it is a very hard blow,” Bonmati said. “I think we should be proud of the work we have done. Right now what you see is a team, and you can see the personality of these players, and I hope we have many more days here.”
Spain coach Jorge Vilda made five changes to the the lineup that was embarrassed by Japan.
The biggest selection calls were leaving two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas on the bench, giving goalkeeper Cata Coll her first appearance with the national team, and giving centerback Laia Codina her first World Cup start.
“After the Japan game, that made us a wound. The wound healed but the scar will last and we will have it on us even going to the semifinals. That scar will not disappear,” Vilda said through a translator. “But we analyzed what we could do. We analyze the rival and see how we can attack them as we have to defend, and we chose the 11 players we think are in the best disposition to face the game.”
Alba Redondo, Codina and Jennifer Hermoso all scored in the win at Eden Park, and Codina rebounded after her own goal in the first half gave Switzerland its only score.
“We have finally arrived. We have pressed well, we have made history, we have shown that we are a team of 23 players,” Vilda said. “I know that they are not words, they are facts.”
Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann reacts as she walks from the pitch. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga).
Switzerland won Group A despite two scoreless draws and entered the knockout game as one of only three teams that didn’t concede a goal in the group stage. But the Swiss were 4-1 down by halftime against Spain, which as the lower seed wore blue jerseys instead of their familiar red uniforms.
“We wanted to stay in the game for as long as we could and disrupt the energy,” Switzerland coach Inka Grings said. “But unfortunately we weren’t able to get in our game. Spain were able to take all their opportunities and use them.”
Grings was also surprised by Spain’s overhauled lineup, and said La Roja are a contender to win the World Cup.
“I think there are a lot of good teams that are among the favourites and Spain itself is one of them,” Grings said. “They made that clear when they play like they did today. If you are aggressive, if you have the determination, and of course bring the quality with you on the journey, all the best and good luck.”
Bonmati scored in the fifth minute after Switzerland goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann had pushed Redondo’s effort against the post. The Swiss couldn’t clear the ball and Bonmati collected it, turned sharply in the box and fired low into the corner.
Switzerland were gifted an equalizer in the 11th on Codina’s own goal. The defender picked up the ball just inside her own half, but without looking, turned and swept the ball beyond Coll, who had advanced too far out of her goal.
The game was briefly tied 1-1, but Spain was back in front in the 17th as Redondo headed a bouncing ball low into the corner. It was her third goal of the tournament.
Spain continued to look for more goals and Bonmati scored her second in the 36th.
It was 4-1 in the 45th as Codina bundled the ball over the line from a corner. Hermoso swept in a fifth for Spain in the 70th to score her third of the tournament.
“Believe in us. We made history,” Bonmati said. “It’s the first time we’re going to the quarterfinals at the World Cup. This team has a lot to say. Let’s Go.”
Meriame Terchoun, one of three halftime substitutes for Switzerland, forced a save from Coll from close range after the break. It was her team’s only effort on target all match.
Swiss midfielder Sandrine Mauron said the game must be raised to another level in her home country for La Nati to become a true contender. Switzerland have never advanced to the quarterfinals of a major tournament, failed to qualify for six of the previous eight World Cups, and didn’t enter in 1995.
The Swiss reached the round of 16 in 2015, their only previous appearance in the World Cup.
“I think that the next step in Switzerland has to be that we get a semi-professional league or something to give more opportunities to improve the game,” Mauron said.
Spain will play either 2019 runner-up Netherlands or South Africa in the quarterfinals in Wellington on Friday.