It would have been quite the bold prediction before the 2023 World Cup Final that Spain would garner much more offensive chances, let alone have so much control in the match. It’s even more so if you said they’d only score once against England. A 1-0 victory in Sydney/Wangal is enough for Spain to win their first-ever Women’s World Cup. That’s not to say England, at times, didn’t have a promising moment. But Spain was more compact, organized, and stronger from bottom to top than the Lionesses.
Both squads have felt blows in recent memory, for England it was injuries, and for Spain it was a massive player strike that went into this tournament, meaning this World Cup Final was robbed of more drama and closer contest, but also, in terms of Spain, it was robbed of having little controversy. La Roja went on strike last year in protest of their coach, Jorge Vilda, not treating them like the incredible players they are. If one image sums up the relationship between Vilda and the team, it’s this:
As the storylines keep coming with the Spanish federation and its unfair treatment of players, we can only hope that their accomplishments spark change – but also they are the ones celebrated, because of what they fought through.
On the pitch, though, the trophy was more than well deserved. Spain closed the gap with England chances-wise once the opening 15 minutes went by. It was around that time that Lauren Hemp hit the crossbar from close range, a chance simply begging to be finished. Something clicked in the Spaniards from then on, and England didn’t pose major challenges afterward, there was no final touch. Spain was denied time after time by Mary Earps, however, it should’ve been more than 1-0. A penalty was saved, and they were denied net-front.
The speedy sensation Salma Paralluelo put ample pressure on England’s defence throughout the whole match, and it seemed like they had some trouble progressing much further than the midfield. The attacking strategy from the Lionesses was mostly breaking into the box and getting shots in from close range, whereas Spain was much more prolific on crosses and moving the ball on the edge of the box as opposed to in it. England resorted to more crosses late in the match because Spain had stifled them. Spain ended with five more crosses (21 to 16) and a better accuracy rate than England, according to SofaScore.
Once again, on the night she was crowned Player of the Tournament, Aitana Bonmati ruled the midfield. With six successful dribbles, five accurate long balls, and two key passes, Bonmati was the engine for Spain. Her work in taking some of Alexia Putellas’ role while the superstar wasn’t healthy enough to play much of the tournament went above and beyond.
The goal was incredible. Olga Carmona finished a goal that was near impossible. The crowd in front of her, the angle, Earps, it all added up to something that never should’ve happened. It was her moment again. After a dramatic semifinal goal that brought Spain to the grandest stage, Carmona made sure that she wouldn’t be remembered for the semifinal. Akin to Andres Iniesta’s World Cup winner 13 years ago, a message on her shirt was revealed. Maybe not the most visible, but after pictures emerged it was clear that she wrote ‘Merchi,’ which she has stated is for the recently-passed mother of a friend.
In the build-up, Spain worked quickly and efficiently in a tiki-taka style that has brought so much glory to the nation over the years. It all seemed so fluid and complete, without anyone missing a beat. England didn’t look out of place, but they were lacking some form of magic. There were some crunching tackles, but it is worth mentioning that Spain got in the faces of the English more than the other way around. Spain had so much more space to exploit, and they did just that, especially on the goal.
Trophies haven’t been an issue for Spanish women this past year, as the senior World Cup means they have achieved the treble: the U17 and U20 World Cups were captured last year. Paralluelo was there for them all, making her breakout all the more impressive.
Regardless of the result, though, this World Cup symbolized incredible change, coming so swiftly in a month down under. So much work has to be done, but when a success like that happens, it’ll force high-ups at national associations to think differently about women’s football. The same can be said for Nike, who especially after that final will get a lot of requests for that Mary Earps shirt.
It was a tournament not worth forgetting. Spain starts their reign as world champions after a scintillating run to the trophy. And, depending on the action from the federation post-World Cup, it’ll be historic in more ways than one.