Spain bid farewell to Euro 2022 feeling angry, frustrated and robbed

“Tomorrow I’ll wake and think: ‘Bloody hell, the Euros have gone.’ It will be a hard day,” Aitana Bonmatí said. It was late in Brighton and Spain had been close, six minutes from a first semi-final, but it was over now. The selección left England earlier than they hoped and earlier than had looked likely when Esther González gave them the lead. Staff said goodbye, some in tears. A plane was hurriedly chartered for the following afternoon. Sad is not really the word, the midfielder said, not after a performance like that. Anger, frustration: those were the words.

The adrenaline was finally subsiding, Bonmatí said, but not entirely: a long time after the end she was still there, still in her kit under the stand, talking about it, taking it in. There was a dissection of the match, the way it had been played. Questions were asked: not just of her, but by her, interest in how others had seen it. There was also pride in the performance and a determination to be back. “I don’t want to leave football without winning a major tournament like this,” she said.

On this evidence she won’t have to. They had been close. And, Spain felt, when it came to the key moment, the decision had gone against them. Bonmatí hadn’t seen a replay of England’s equaliser and hadn’t spoken to the referee, Stéphanie Frappart, after the game either – “there’s no point, you don’t gain anything”. Mariona Caldentey had decided not to say much either. “If I say what I think I’ll probably get banned,” she suggested. “They showed the goal on the screen and there’s an elbow on [Irene] Paredes; you can see is clear foul.”

“The game changes when they scored the first goal and you have seen how they scored it,” Paredes said. “I know 100% that it is a foul. I don’t understand why it is not blown. Well, yes, I do understand … I also understand why it didn’t go to the VAR. And that hurts.”

Alessia Russo wins the header against Irene Paredes that led to England’s equaliser.
Alessia Russo wins the header against Irene Paredes that led to England’s equaliser. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

In fact the VAR did review the incident as a matter of course. Paredes, asked whether she thought the decision had gone against Spain because it was the hosts England or because of the pressure of the crowd, replied: “The answer is clear. It’s a clear foul, a clear foul that changes the game. From there a new game starts. Their second goal is a brilliant goal. And the match ends with a corner for us that isn’t given. It’s an obvious elbow in the neck. I’m sure that if it had been the other way round it would have been blown. The refereeing decisions have weighed heavily, especially on that first goal. The way the game was decided is pretty doubtful. It’s hard to take.”

“I don’t want to see a replay because it doesn’t help now,” Bonmatí said. “You’ve lost 2-1, you’re going home, there’s no point. And we have to look at ourselves, see what we can do to win these games. At times we gave England a footballing ‘bath’ [a drubbing] so you feel frustrated, angry. I wouldn’t say sad because we gave everything and were the better team in my opinion. The way they had played, the way they came into it, everyone saying: ‘Ooh, they’re going to score five’… and we played very well. That’s what I will hold on to.


“When I was on the pitch, I felt the nerves they had. They didn’t stop talking to each other, you could see them looking at each other, arms raised, frustrated faces. They were down. And that’s a good thing because we had taken them somewhere that no one else had taken them,.

“I hadn’t seen England like that until this game. We’ve seen games when they were permanently attacking, when they had a lot of the ball. They were full of confidence, smiling. And today we took them to the edge. That makes me feel confident and proud. To see a team that everyone said was going to give us a real beating, and we were the ones [who did]; we brought out our best version.”

Aitana Bonmatí (left) battles with England’s match-winner, Georgia Stanway.
Aitana Bonmatí (left) battles with England’s match-winner, Georgia Stanway. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

What then was missing? “When we went 1-0 up, it took a weight off our shoulders and instead of being ourselves, instead of having the ball and keep on playing our style and go for the second goal, we stopped doing that,” Bonmatí said. “The English started to have a bit more of the ball, they started to get more crosses in and in the end the goal came. I think at that moment, we needed to have more of the ball. But it’s done now; hopefully that can help for the future.

“We have to take our chances, we know that. When we improve those things we have to do better, we’ll be unstoppable. We have no ceiling. I didn’t have a long conversation with any of the England players at the end because maybe it wasn’t the moment but you shake hands, ‘congratulations, congratulations’, ‘good luck’ and they said to me: ‘You played very well.’ They recognised what we had done. We have to leave the pitch with our heads held high because no one deserves to leave here sad or angry.

“But we’re out in the quarters and I’m left with frustration. I wanted to leave here with the trophy in my hand and the team champions.” Instead Aitana Bonmatí departed Brighton early, carrying Keira Walsh’s shirt.


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