Meet the former 400m runner who is taking Women's World Cup by storm

Paralluelo, who also took part in hurdles and triple jump in the past, scored in Spain's 2-1 win over Sweden in the semifinal


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Spain's Salma Paralluelo celebrates scoring her team's first goal during the Women's World Cup semifinal against Sweden. — AFP
Spain's Salma Paralluelo celebrates scoring her team's first goal during the Women's World Cup semifinal against Sweden. — AFP

Published: Tue 15 Aug 2023, 4:38 PM

Teenager Salma Paralluelo gave another reminder of her precious talent by coming off the bench on Tuesday for the second game running to play a pivotal role for Spain at the Women's World Cup.

Olga Carmona scored a cracker in the 89th minute in Auckland to give Spain a 2-1 victory over Sweden and send them into their first World Cup final.

But it was the 19-year-old Barcelona attacker Paralluelo who lit the fuse for a gripping finale, turning the ball into the Sweden net with a smart finish in the box on 81 minutes.

Sweden equalised through a Rebecka Blomqvist strike seven minutes later, only for defender Carmona to seal the semifinal in Spain's favour with a rocket.

Paralluelo also came off the bench to score against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, her classy goal in extra time proving decisive on that occasion.

A starter in every round before that, she also played a big part in the 5-1 demolition of Switzerland in the last 16 with her deliveries from the left wing, two of which led to goals for Aitana Bonmati.

Spain are defined by technique and a mesmerising passing game, but the player who gives them that precious something different with her pace, direct running and power on the flank is Paralluelo.

"She is a player with enormous potential and she is a long way from touching the ceiling in terms of what she can do," coach Jorge Vilda has said.

Salma Paralluelo score against Sweden. — Reuters
Salma Paralluelo score against Sweden. — Reuters

"She is very young and has only been focusing fully on training for football for a year. We will see the best of Salma in the future.

"She is already shining now, but I am sure that in the future she will do so even more."

Born in the northeastern city of Zaragoza to a Spanish father and a mother from Equatorial Guinea, Paralluelo grew up combining football with athletics.

"I started doing both when I was seven. At first it was just a game for me but little by little as I grew up I started to realise I could go further," she said of her early footballing days in an interview with last year.

Paralluelo won medals in several different track disciplines, taking part in hurdles and triple jump.

She also competed in the 400 metres at the 2019 European Indoor Championships in Glasgow, when aged 15.

Paralluelo's budding football career took her to Villarreal, where she suffered a ruptured ACL in her left knee in April 2021 that kept her out for nine months.

In July last year she joined Barcelona, the emerging superpower of European women's club football, just after another injury ruled her out of the Spain squad for the European Championship in England.

That move meant giving up athletics once and for all.

"It was difficult to give up one sport, but it was a step I had to take and I couldn't be in a better place," she said at the time.

Having helped Barca win the Champions League, Paralluelo is now closing on a third world title with Spain.

She was part of the team that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2018 and scored twice in the final as Spain beat Japan 3-1 to win last year's Under-20 World Cup.

"She is unique. It is difficult to find players like her, whose background is in athletics and who has so much quality on her left foot and a really good shot," said Bonmati.

"When we have played together we combine well and we try to play her in either in space or to her feet. You can do both with her."


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