Spain are celebrating their first Women’s World Cup after running out 1-0 winners over England in Sydney, Australia.
Both sides came into today’s showdown looking to make history, as each side was playing in their first-ever final. England as the defending European champions while Spain’s team were laced with members of Barcelona’s recent Women’s Champions League winning team.
Expected to be an evenly-fought contest the game was decided just before 30 minutes had been played when Olga Carmona struck past Mary Earps who saved a penalty from Jennifer Hermoso later on in the game.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) August 20, 2023
It capped off an incredible recent turn of events for the Real Madrid full-back who celebrated by revealing a message underneath her shirt which read “Merchi” for her former school. Carmona had come into this summer’s tournament having scored just one international goal. She now has one in the semi-final and the final of a Women’s World Cup.
Furthermore, this was the first time since 2003 (Germany’s Maren Meinert against Sweden) a defender had netted in the WWC final. Carmona also followed in Andres Iniesta’s footsteps as Spain’s second-ever World Cup final goalscorer.
Speaking of the 2010 winner, his counterpart in this Spanish women’s team is undoubtedly FC Barcelona Femení controlling midfielder Aitana Bonmati, who ran the show. Heading into the game Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola was full of praise for her.
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“Aitana Bonmati is a football player who has me completely in love with her for the way she plays,” he told the reporters. “I would say she is like the women’s (Andrés) Iniesta playing for Barcelona. The current Barcelona team has made an incredible impact on the women’s team in football.”
Those words are sure to put a smile on Bonmati’s face as she’s previously cited her Barça heroes as references. “I would zoom in on Xavi and Iniesta: How they moved, how they created chances, how they scanned the space around them before receiving the ball. Iniesta was always driving the ball forward, so I tried to do that. Today I feel I have the same way of understanding the game. The Barça Way, if you want to call it that,” she told The Players’ Tribune.
Bonmati subsequently won the Golden Ball — for best player of the championship, the first Spanish footballer to pick up this prize at a senior World Cup tournament — while teammate Salma Paralluelo was named Best Young Player Award which is the latest accolade for the sensational 19-year-old whose star continues to rise.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) August 20, 2023
Paralluelo, a one-time contender to represent Spain at the forthcoming 2024 Paris Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles, was part of Spain’s successful U-17 Women’s World Cup (2018) and U-20 Women’s World Cup (2022) campaigns. With this latest success, Spain is now the world champion at U17, U20 and senior level. A feat that has never been accomplished before in the women’s game.
Wiegman, the history-maker
As for England, it, unfortunately, proved to be a game too far, their manager Sarina Wiegman became the first manager in World Cup history to reach a final with two different nations (as four years ago she took her native Netherlands — also then Euro champions — to a final showdown with the United States). In fact, before today, only three foreign coaches played for gold: George Raynor (1958), Ernst Happel (1978) and Pia Sundhage (2011). In the end, history wasn’t made as every women’s and men’s football world champion to date has been led by a native of the winning nation.
This was also painfully England’s first competitive defeat under Wiegman, having gone 29 such games without defeat since losing against Spain in the SheBelieves Cup in March 2020, embattled La Roja head coach Jorge Vilda was also in charge back then. Despite all the off-field controversies that have surrounded them Spain are the fifth team to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup, after USA (4), Germany (2), Norway (1) and Japan (1). Prior to this year’s edition, they had only ever won one match at the tournament.
Even more impressive, Spain, who lost 4-0 to Japan 20 days ago, is only the second side to be crowned champions of the WWC despite having lost a group stage match during that tournament, after Japan in 2011. The future looks bright for both nations, but right now Spain has well and truly conquered the women’s game.