Spain beat England to triumph in Women's World Cup final

Spanish captain Carmona grabs only goal of game to break hearts of Lionesses in Sydney

Spain players celebrate after beating England in the Fifa Women's World Cup final at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 20, 2023. PA
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Spain outplayed England to win the Women's World Cup for the first time thanks to a first-half goal from captain Olga Carmona.

Sarina Wiegman's Lionesses, the reigning European champions, were second best as they were beaten 1-0 by the Spaniards in front of 75,784 fans at Stadium Australia on Sunday.

England's women were seeking to emulate the men's team who won the World Cup on home soil in 1966 but ran into a Spain side full of energy and flair.

It was a first victory in the tournament for Spain, led by manager Jorge Vilda, with a side packed with stars from Barcelona's Champions League winning side.

Spain's captain scored the the winner in the 29th minute after a scything move, slotting a crisp winner past England keeper Mary Earps.

Earps, who won the Golden Glove award for the best keeper at the tournament, later kept her side in the game when she saved a penalty from Jenni Hermoso in the 69th minute.

But England just could not find a way to get an equaliser, even with 13 minutes of time added at the end of the match.

After the game, England captain Millie Bright said: “It’s hard, but it’s football. It can go either way. They’re a fantastic team.

“First half wasn’t our best, second half we had chances – we hit the bar. Congrats to them but this is the hard part of football.

“A lot of emotion [right now] but I’m really proud of the team. To come this far, to play in the World Cup final, not many get to do that. This is not it for us, we’ll bounce back.”

"I'm just deflated," said England defender Lucy Bronze. "Obviously, we went into the World Cup wanting to win it and we were so close, but in the end we couldn't quite get it over the line.

"I am proud of what we have achieved but I think everybody that knows me, knows that I only like gold medals."

It was the first final that has not involved either the US or Germany and England edged the early play in the clash of the two first-time finalists.

Forward Lauren Hemp had a shot on goal in the fifth minute and hit a powerful strike against the bar 12 minutes later.

Spain hit back with Carmona overlapping down the left flank and pinging a pass across the goal but Salma Paralluelo couldn't apply the finishing touch and Alba Redondo's shot was well saved by Earps.

La Roja took the lead on 29 minutes after England lost the ball in midfield and Teresa Abelleira whipped a cross-field pass to Mariona Caldentey, who slipped the ball on to Carmona.

The left-back surged into the box and struck a crisp finish into the far corner. Paralluelo then hit the post with a shot just before half-time.

England manager Wiegman, who has now lost two successive World Cup finals, changed from a back three to a back four after half-time and brought on Lauren James in place of Alessia Russo in attack.

It didn't stem the Spanish tide, however, and Caldentey forced another good save out of Earps with a shot from the edge of the area after 50 minutes.

Aitana Bonmati struck the bar from distance just after the hour mark and then won a penalty for a handball against Keira Walsh after a VAR review.

Earps kept England in the fight as she dived low to her left to keep out Hermoso's penalty before the officials signalled 13 minutes of stoppage time would be added at the end of the game.

James had a shot tipped over the bar by Spanish goalkeeper Cata Coll in the 75th minute and England pushed everyone up for a corner deep into stoppage time but Coll, playing only her fourth international, gathered the ball with confidence.

It was the last meaningful action before the whistle blew to spark wild celebrations from Spain.

La Roja were without many of their best players at the tournament after a mutiny against coach Vilda and had been thrashed 4-0 by Japan in the group stage.

To say this was quite the turnaround would be some understatement.

"What we did, it's difficult to achieve," said Vilda. "Very proud of this team, we have shown we know how to play, that we know how to suffer, we have believed and we are world champions."

Updated: August 20, 2023, 5:16 PM