Spain seal spot in Women's World Cup final after dramatic win over Sweden

La Roja secure 2-1 semi-final victory in Auckland that saw all three goals scored in last 10 minutes

Spain's Olga Carmona celebrates scoring the winning goal against Sweden in the Women's World Cup semi-final in Auckland, on August 15, 2023. EPA
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Spain sealed their place in Sunday's Women's World Cup final after a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sweden in Auckland that saw all three goals coming in the last 10 minutes.

In a cagey contest with few chances for either side, the game suddenly sprung into life when 19-year-old Barcelona winger Salma Paralluelo gave Spain an 81st-minute lead.

Sweden – who have now lost back-to-back World Cup semi-finals – levelled seven minutes later when Rebecka Blomqvist smashed the ball first time across the goalkeeper and into the top corner.

But just 93 seconds later, captain Olga Carmona grabbed the winner with a shot that went in off the bar following a corner to spark wild celebrations at Eden Park as La Roja advanced.

They will now face the winner of Wednesday's other semi-final between co-hosts Australia and European champions England.

It is a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Spain coming less than a year after a player revolt tore the squad apart when 15 players had threatened to quit the team as they were unhappy with manager Jorge Vilda's methods.

The coach exiled them all from the squad and only three of the 15 rebels – Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmati and Ona Batlle – made it to the World Cup.

This historic win for Spain, that sealed their first ever final appearance, came just 15 days after they were beaten 4-0 by Japan in a group match.

“It was a very tough game. It could’ve been difficult to recover from their goal, but we’ve shown that his team can deal with everything,” said Paralluelo, who scored the winner in Spain's quarter-final win over the Netherlands.

“We deserved this. We took this little step, and now we need that final push. We’ve overcome every challenge and now we face the ultimate challenge, the big one.”

It was the same old story for Sweden as they lost for the fourth time in five World Cup semi-finals, having knocked out 2015 and 2019 winners the United States and Japan in their past two matches.

“It felt like a punch in the stomach when they managed to take the lead again straight away. There are no words,” Sweden defender Magdalena Eriksson said.

“I'm incredibly disappointed, we gave everything we had, we even managed to equalise. We fought against a headwind today, we didn't succeed.”

The match looked destined for extra time until the sudden late burst of three goals in eight minutes.

After dominating possession, Spain finally found the breakthrough when Jennifer Hermoso's cross was cleared into the path of Paralluelo and the substitute tucked the ball into the bottom corner.

Their lead was short-lived though as Sweden hit back in the 88th minute when Lina Hurtig headed down a cross for Blomqvist to smash the ball first time across the goalkeeper and into the top corner.

Spain snatched the winner just one minute later when a short corner was played out to Carmona on the edge of the area and she drove the ball from the outside of the box above Zecira Musovic's head, with the goalkeeper unable to get a strong enough hand to keep it out.

Updated: August 15, 2023, 1:58 PM