Jenni Hermoso says she “can only smile” after making a sensational return to Spain’s squad by scoring an 89th-minute winner against Italy in the Nations League.
Hermoso, on as a 68th-minute substitute in Salerno, converted the rebound after Alexia Putellas’ shot was saved by Italian goalkeeper Laura Giuliani.
The forward had not played for her country since the scandal that engulfed Spanish football, when federation president Luis Rubiales kissed her on the lips during the trophy presentation after winning the World Cup.
“What better joy than to get back here and feel good again, to score the goal that gets the win – now I can only smile,” Hermoso, who plays for Mexican side Pachuca, told TVE.
The kiss, which Hermoso says was not consensual, sparked outcry and Rubiales eventually resigned as Spanish football federation (RFEF) president.
Rubiales, whose actions overshadowed Spain’s World Cup win in August, was also given a restraining order.
World Cup winning manager Jorge Vilda was sacked in September and replaced by Montse Tome, who omitted Hermoso from her first national team squad last month “to protect her”.
The Rubiales scandal took its toll on 33-year-old Hermoso, who said her “image had been tarnished” by the kiss.
“I can tell you [I thought about] many things, but life sometimes gives you little gifts, and today I thought about a lot of people behind [me] this time,” added Hermoso.
“I am happy because thanks to them today I enjoyed football once again.”
Friday’s goal was Hermoso’s 52nd for Spain, in 102 appearances.
“We’re all very happy because we were able to win and because she [Hermoso] scored that goal,” Spain coach Tome told a news conference.
“I would also like to say how happy I am with that goal, considering the time she has spent on the pitch. We saw her smiling and I think everyone is smiling.”
Spain, who travel to face Switzerland on Tuesday, top League A Group 4 with three wins from three games.
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