Spain beat England 1-0 to be world champions
Queen Letizia of Spain lifts the trophy on the podium in celebration after Spain won the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup final football match between Spain and England in Sydney. Photo: Getty
Spain have pushed past their internal turmoil to claim their first Women’s World Cup crown in style by dancing their way to a 1-0 victory over England in the final in Sydney.
Captain Olga Carmona’s venomous left-footed strike in the 29th minute delivered Spain the lead before Mary Earps saved Jenni Hermoso’s 69th-minute penalty to keep European champions England’s hopes alive.
But Spain, whose entire campaign has been overshadowed by last year’s player revolt and a subsequent cloud hanging over coach Jorge Vilda, held on in front of 75,784 fans at Stadium Australia to claim football immortality.
The Spanish mutiny included 15 players stepping away from the national team, citing concerns over under-investment and Vilda’s allegedly authoritarian approach to management – and only three have returned.
Spain have consistently closed ranks throughout the tournament regarding their internal unrest.
Whether it will remain that way with the job done is yet to be seen.
La Roja’s triumph condemned Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman to a second consecutive final defeat after she previously lost the decider with the Netherlands against the USA in 2019.
Wiegman is the only coach to lose two finals.
England were left to rue two strong early chances missed by Lauren Hemp, who hit one shot straight at Catalina Coll in the fifth minute and curled another onto the crossbar 11 minutes later.
But Wiegman’s usually well-drilled charges were otherwise sliced to pieces by Spain’s brilliant ball movement and relentless intensity.
Spain dropped two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas for teen sensation Salma Paralluelo, while England initially resisted starting with star attacker Lauren James on her return from suspension, sticking with an unchanged line-up.
Paralluelo, who becomes the first player to win U17, U20 and senior Women’s World Cups, gave England headaches from the opening minutes.
Spain snatched the advantage when the superb Aitana Bonmati dispossessed Lucy Bronze in midfield and the ball slipped to Teresa Abelleira, who swept a marvellous cross-field pass to Mariona Caldentey.
The midfielder sent the ball wide to Carmona, who burst forward and ripped a left-footed strike across her body, past a diving Earps and into the bottom corner.
Paralluelo powered a shot just past the far post with the final kick of the half.
Wiegman hooked Daly and Alessia Russo for James and Chloe Kelly at halftime but Spain picked up where they left off after the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Mariona turned Bronze inside-out then forced a strong save from Earps.
Hemp blasted wide in the 54th minute before Spain had their chance to double their lead from the spot 15 minutes later, after the ball clearly hit Keira Walsh’s hand as she attempted to get in Mariona’s way.
After a lengthy VAR review, referee Tori Penso awarded the spot kick, but Earps heroically saved Hermoso’s poor penalty, diving low to her left and holding onto the ball.
Coll denied James in the 76th minute and two minutes later, Paralluelo caught Alex Greenwood in the head with a stray knee, with the defender requiring lengthy treatment.
Putellas came on in the 90th minute and Spain closed out a frantic 16 minutes of injury time to seal glory.