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Lucía García brings the edge that Spain needs

The Athletic Club Femenino striker provided the goals Spain needed against Japan to emphasise their almost total dominance yesterday.

SOCCER: MAR 05 Women’s SheBelieves Cup - Spain v Japan Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spain, like their male counterparts play some of the most technical and fluid football you’ll see anywhere in the game right now but without a clinical striker, that system flatters to deceive. In Lucía García, Jorge Vilda may have found the missing piece to complete his team.

During yesterday’s SheBelieves Cup opener against Japan, Spain were level going into the half with their opponents and despite having carved up the Japanese defense regularly, only had one goal to show for it. Seeing this, Vilda made the decision to bring on García in place of a midfielder to turn their dominance into goals. It worked. The Athletic Club Femenino striker showed just how well she can finish with two goals inside the second 45 minutes.

Within minutes of her coming into the game Lucía García was proving to be more effective in leading the line than having a creative outlet like Jennifer Hermoso as the lone forward. Although her finish in the 47th minute left much to be desired, García was quick enough and smart enough to take advantage of the space afforded to her by Saki Kumagai. She got to the long diagonal ball first but couldn’t find enough power to put behind her shot. She more than made up for that a minute later. A loose pass by Kumagai allowed García to pounce on the ball, round Ayaka Yamashita and finish past the despairing dive of the defender on the goal line. García stayed on the shoulder of Kumagai and Moeka Minami throughout the second half and constantly found herself unmarked in and around the area.

Her runs clearly unnerved the Japanese defenders and kept them constantly looking behind their shoulder to see where García was instead of focusing on their own game. Her close control and touch (see the chance around the 67th minute) also made it difficult for any defender to stay with her and she should have scored more goals than the two she ended up with. Instead, she had to wait until the 78th minute to get her second and she did so with all the composure in the world. García beat Kumagai (who will have nightmares about her performance yesterday) to another ball over the top, rounded Yamashita again and then finished into an empty net. At 3-1, Spain had stamped their authority on the score sheet as well as they had stamped their overall authority on the match itself. Thanks to Lucía García, the Spaniards are now on top the standings heading into their Sunday match against the USWNT.

Spain gave the USWNT one of their harder matches during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and although their style was less obvious then, they proved that they are close to being one of the top teams in the world. Sunday’s match will be another test for Iberians as they look to close the gap on the likes of the Netherlands, England and France before the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021. They still need to work on their defense and continue to improve their mentality as a unit but if García continues on her current trajectory, they will have one less issue to solve before next summer. Against the USWNT this Sunday, García will have a harder test ahead of her but if she passes that with flying colours, Jorge Vilda may have no choice but to insert her into the starting lineup from here on out.