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Embattled Spain coach offers pointed praise after USWNT win

Spain coach Jorge Vilda remains embroiled in a dispute with a group of national team players. (Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

The Spain women’s national team beat the United States for the first time ever Tuesday, but the 2-0 win came in the middle of a dispute between Spanish players, their coach and their national federation.

โ€œAll the praise goes to my players because they showed all their courage and how to do things the right way,” Spain coach Jorge Vilda said. “We were very competitive right to the end of the match.”

In praising the players on the roster for showing “how to do things the right way,” Vilda also made a point about the players whose names are conspicuously absent.

Spain played the match without 15 players who asked not to be called up to the national team if their concerns for their health and well-being were not addressed. The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said the players refused to play under coach Jorge Vilda.

Team captains Patri Guijarro, Irene Paredes and Jenni Hermoso all were absent from the squad for the friendly. While Paredes and Hermoso were not among the 15 players to send letters, both have expressed support for their teammates who did. Spanish star and reigning Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas has done the same.

Even without those big-name players, Spain handed the USWNT its second straight loss in front of a record crowd of 11,209 at El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona.

โ€œI think itโ€™s a historic day for Spanish football as we beat the United States, the top team in the world, for the very first time,โ€ Vilda said.

Even with the premier win, though, the rift between Vilda and the group of Spain’s best players remains a problem for the national team as it looks ahead to the 2023 World Cup.

Vilda has taken a defiant stance as the disagreement played out ahead of Tuesday’s match.

“This is a farce, on the world stage,” Vilda said on Sept. 30. “It’s hurting women’s football. I can’t see any other solution than to look at this squad and look forward. I’m with those players who want to be part of this national team.”

The 41-year-old also said he has not considered stepping down as coach.

“I wouldn’t wish what I’m going through on anyone,” Vilda said. “A lack of clarity in the message from the players has led people to believe there are non-sporting issues here… I’d ask every player I’ve coached, if anyone can say they haven’t been treated well, to come out and say it.”