Spain wins first FIFA Women’s World Cup title, beats England 1-0 in final


PTI, Aug 20, 2023, 5:58 PM IST

Credit: @FIFAWWC / X (formerly Twitter)

Sydney: Spain won its first FIFA Women’s World Cup title less than a year after a player rebellion, holding off England 1-0 on Sunday after Olga Carmona’s first-half goal.

Spain’s first major international trophy made it the first European team to win the Women’s World Cup since Germany in 2007.

At the final whistle, the Spanish players piled on each other in front of their goal. Carmona’s left-foot shot in the 29th minute went into the far corner of the net and just out of reach of diving England goalkeeper Mary Earps.

In celebration, she raised her jersey to reveal the word “Merchi” scrawled in ink on her undershirt, an apparent nod to her former school.

Carmona also scored the game-winner in the 89th minute of Spain’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Sweden, becoming the first player since Carli Lloyd in 2015 to score in a World Cup semifinal and final. Spain had a chance to double the lead in the 68th, but Jenni Hermoso’s penalty attempt was saved by Earps, who anticipated perfectly and dived to her left.

Spain’s victory comes despite a near-mutiny by players last year. Fifteen players said they were stepping away from the national team for their mental health, while also calling for a more professional environment. Three of those players — Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí and Mariona Caldentey — reconciled with the federation and were at the World Cup.

England had momentum going into the tournament after winning the UEFA European Championship at home last summer. But, three of the team’s best players, captain Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead, all had knee injuries that kept them off the World Cup squad.

England coach Sarina Wiegman was the first coach to take her teams to back-to-back World Cup title matches. She led the Netherlands to the final in 2019 but fell 2-0 to the United States of America. She’s now 0-2.

England was coming off a 3-1 victory over host Australia in the semi-final. Lauren James, who was the team’s top scorer with three goals and three assists, was forced to sit out two matches because of a suspension for stomping on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie to open the knockout stage.

While James was available for the final, Wiegman started Ella Toone. James came into the match to start the second half. The game was briefly interrupted in the 25th minute by a person who raced onto the field but was quickly tackled by security.

One of England’s best chances was in the 16th when Lauren Hemp’s blast caromed off the crossbar. A minute later, Salma Paralluelo raced to the goal, but couldn’t get a clean shot and Earps stopped Alba Redondo’s attempt in the scramble in front of the net.

Vilda started 19-year-old Paralluelo, who scored the breakthrough goal for Spain against Sweden, and the game-winner in extra time over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. Paralluelo nearly scored seconds from half-time, but her shot hit the post. She was handed a yellow card in the 78th minute for a foul on Alex Greenwood, who had a cut above her eye.

Hemp had another chance in the 54th but sent it wide. A minute later, she was handed a yellow card for a foul on Laia Codina. Spain had a chance to double the lead in the 68th after a video review awarded a penalty after Keira Walsh’s handball. But, Earps kept England in the game, as she did with a succession of saves late.

Coach Jorge Vilda had a challenge in working around two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who was still working her way back from a torn ACL last year. For the final, Putellas was on the bench at the start. Putellas went into the game with 15 seconds left in regulation, but there were 13 minutes of stoppage time.

There were 75,784 fans at the final at Stadium Australia, including tennis great Billie Jean King.

The two teams met last year in the quarters of the Euros, with England coming from behind to beat Spain 2-1 in extra time on Georgia Stanway’s goal.

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