24th May 2024
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Spain beat England 1-0 to win the Women’s World Cup

Spain have beaten England 1-0  to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time, after Olga Carmona’s first-half goal in the final in Australia.

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 had also scored the game-winner in the 89th minute of Spain’s 2-1 semi-final victory over Sweden, becoming the first player since Carli Lloyd in 2015 to score in a World Cup semi-final 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.

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. 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 minute when Lauren Hemp’s blast hit 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.

Spanish coach Jordi 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 quarter-finals.

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.

England’s 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 later on.

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. She came on with 15 seconds left in normal time, 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 sides had last met at the European Championship in 2022, when hosts England squeezed into the semi-finals 2-1 in extra time and went on to lift the trophy.

Before the match, England coach Wiegman and defender Millie Bright had said they were attempting to think of this as just another game, but the skipper admitted there was no getting away from the enormity of the occasion.

British media had been full of references to 1966 prior to the match, when the country won the men’s World Cup for the only time.

‘We know how passionate our nation is back home and how much they want us to win,’ Bright had said on Saturday. ‘But for us there is a process, we have a game plan to execute and we need to play the game of our lives.’

Spain had never even won a knockout match at the World Cup until this edition and their exploits are even more impressive for the turmoil that threatened to torpedo their chances.

In September last year, 15 players – many of them from European powerhouse Barcelona – came out and said they no longer wanted to represent their country.

They had numerous complaints, but their chief issue was with coach Vilda — how strict he was, his lack of success, his tactics and his methods.

Three of the 15 mutineers returned for the World Cup and one of them, Barcelona midfield schemer Aitana Bonmati, has been among the best players at the tournament.

Vilda had been asked repeatedly by reporters at the World Cup about the missing players and was once quizzed about whether the ones he brought to Australia and New Zealand even liked him.

On the eve of the final he appeared to have had enough of that line of questioning, replying: ‘Next question, please.’ He was more forthright about the spirit among his players, saying they were ‘united’.

‘The training sessions, the games, everything that’s happened outside has been extraordinary,’ he said, prior to the final.

Letizia present, but not William

Spain’s Queen Letizia was in attendance but Prince William — chairman of England’s Football Association — had faced criticism for staying at home.

‘Lionesses I want to send you a huge good luck for tomorrow,’ he said in a video with daughter Charlotte sitting next to him on Saturday. ‘We’re sorry we can’t be there in person but we’re so proud of everything you’ve achieved and the millions you’ve inspired here and around the world.’

It is another new name on the Women’s World Cup. The United States, who had been chasing a third title in a row, went out on penalties in the last 16 to Sweden. Norway, Germany and Japan are the only other nations to have lifted the trophy.

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