The women’s World Cup came to a close at the weekend when Spain lifted the trophy for the first time with a 1-0 victory over much-fancied England, in front of 75,000 spectators at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
The only goal came from the Spanish captain Olga Carmona who capitalised on a mistake by Lucy Bronze – who plays her club football for Barcelona and is a teammate of many of her opponents on the day.
Jorge Vilda’s Spaniards could even afford to miss a second half penalty and at the final whistle the controversial coach was pictured being congratulated by Queen Letizia on a famous victory.
Prior to heading to Australia and New Zealand, Spain had never won a knockout game at a major tournament, so this was not expected at all. That despite their side being packed with Women’s Champions League winners, but the squad did not appear to be completely united with lots of opposition to the coach, so even making the final was a real surprise.
English start stronger
England on the other hand had grown into the competition and were justifiable favourites. Sarina Wiegman named the same starting eleven from their win over the Australians in the semis, and had the majority backing in a sell-out crowd.
The Lionesses started on the front foot and caused a lot of problems exploiting spaces behind Spain’s press. However, they could not find the opening goal and gradually the Spanish one-touch passing, neat flicks, and intelligent movement saw the English begin to look vulnerable.
Error leads to opening goal
Midway through the first half Lucy Bronze set off on one of her trade mark runs from wing-back heading in field, but her reluctance to use her weaker left foot was apparent and also already recognised by her club teammates, who proceeded to read her movement, close her down and pinch the ball, before immediately switching play to the space the 31-year-old had vacated.
With still work to do, Olga Carmona superbly found the bottom corner of the net to give the Spaniards the lead and by the end of the half England were thankful to only be the one goal down.
Tournament’s best player leads Spain to famous win
Changes were made, but made little difference and they were grateful to Mary Earps – who claimed the Golden Glove award for the tournament – when she got down low to her left to save Jenni Hermoso’s penalty, following a handball which took VAR a full five minutes to confirm.
Spain stood firm, with midfielder Aitana Bonmati running the show, and aided by some “professional “ tactics, they were able to see the game out. Bonmati was named Player of the Tournament, with 19-year-old teammate Salma Paralluelo, taking the young player award.
Japan’s Hinata Miyazawa won the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals, with a total of five.
Positive messages despite defeat
England manager Wiegman has now lost two Women’s World Cup finals in a row after she led her native Netherlands to a 2-0 defeat by the United States in 2019.
Speaking afterwards she said: “Of course it feels really bad now, very disappointing. You go into the final and you want to give everything and then you lose it, but that happens in sports but what we have done, how we have shown ourselves, who we are, how we want to play as a team, overcoming so many challenges – I think we can be so proud of ourselves, although it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.”
Captain Millie Bright spoke of how hard it was to take and said they were “absolutely heartbroken”. She added: “We gave it everything, we had chances, we hit the bar, but we just didn’t have the final edge and they got theirs in back of the net. Unfortunately we just weren’t there.”
Celebrations across Spain
Spain now have women’s world titles at senior, under-17 and under-20 levels and back home fans celebrated right across the country, with viewing parties organized by local officials in more than 100 towns and cities.
The win is likely to do wonders for the women’s game.