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  • Writer's pictureBethany Barker

World Cup Final: Spain's domination and strength

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

La Roja battled it out with The Lionesses to gain their first World Championship in a tense end to this Summer's tournament and become the first European winners since 2007

Sunday 20th August 2023

 

Today saw the conclusion of the Women's World Cup as Spain and England went head to head in the bid to become World Champions, with La Roja emerging victorious, this final- and the overall tournament- has been a historic event. The all-European final was the first World Cup Final not to feature either the USA or Germany as the two teams gave everything in front of another record attendance of 75,784 fans.


Fourth time lucky:

In front of a crowd of 49,461 Sweden won a record-fourth bronze by beating co-hosts- and fan favourites- Australia, overtaking the USA for the number of bronze medals won, after a successful tournament where they topped their group with maximum points, knocked out defending champions USA and previous champions Japan, but falling short in a semi-final defeat against Spain.

After a tense game, Sweden provided a dominant performance in front of a Matildas' home crowd, which helped to show the experience they have in playing third-fourth place matches by holding 54% possession with 11 shots. The first breakthrough of the game came when Fridolina Rolfo beat the Australian keeper with a bottom-left penalty, in the first half after a VAR check proved that Claire Hunt- Australian and Western Sydney Wanderers defender- had clipped Stina Blackstenius' (Arsenal forward) ankle in the 26th minute. In the second half, Kosovare Asllani's second-half strike- from the edge of the area- sealed Sweden's victory after receiving a square ball from Blackstenius.

Swedish coach, Peter Gerhardsson, said "It was an incredibly important match and the final 10 minutes were tough. So when that final whistle went and we had won, there was a great sense of relief and it was a wonderful feeling. It's great to win a match of this magnitude - there's been a lot of attention paid to this tournament back in Sweden."

Although the Matildas narrowly missed out on third place, it was the first time an Australian national team has been involved in the playoffs for a medal at a World Cup, demonstrating the historical changes happening in Australia this summer. After the superb success of this summer's tournament- in a country where football is not the number one sport- records have been broken with 11.5 million tuning into the Matildas' semi-final clash with England and a total attendance of 1,978,274 which smashes previous records by over 6000,000.

However, after a slightly tired and deflated performance with players struggling to make a real impact, fourth was the best place Australia could compete for; the best chances of the night fell to Hayley Raso and Clare Polkinghorne who were both denied by Zecira Musovic. Captain Sam Kerr- who had the fewest touches out of any player in the first half- stated "We wanted to have some hardware to take home, it wasn't to be but we've proved to the world - and also within Australia - that we are a footballing nation." which can be mirrored in this year being their highest placing and became the first hosts to reach the semi-finals since 2003 (USA).

Clean sweep for La Roja:

Spain and England treated the 75,784 fans in attendance to a nail-biting final which saw the European champions struggle against a dominant and creatively strong Spain who held 57% of the possession which kept England quiet with only 3/8 shots being on target. This is the third World Cup win for Spain who won the under 17's 2022, under 20's 2022 and now the 2023 WWC- for the first time- with many of the young players making an impact in the senior team.

Statistically, Spain was not favourites to potentially win the final game as before this year's tournament they had only won one Women's World Cup match. However, their dominant style of play created a strong performance, from the first half they dominated large parts of the game by exposing spaces left by the English back line and when Bronze gave the ball away, after being stopped by a wall of red, they intelligently created more chances. Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona forward) delivered a simple pass to Carmona- named player of the match- before the Real Madrid defender struck the ball past Mary Earps who did attempt to save it by diving, but was unlucky on this occasion. However, the Manchester United star was able to block shots from Ona Batlle, Caldentey, Salma Paralluelo and Alba Redondo which helped stop Spain from running away with the game.

Even after Sarina Wiegman, England's manager, made a few changes during half-time by introducing Lauren James and Chloe Kelly but they struggled to make a real impact as Spain sustained their control despite England's best efforts. Mary Earps made crucial saves, including a penalty shot which denied Jenni Hermoso- C.F. Pachuca Femenil forward- the winning goal in the second half. However, it was not meant to be as the Lionesses lost just their second game in two years which left many players deflated; as stated by Barcelona and England defender, Lucy Bronze, "I'm just deflated. 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." Bronze also broke a new record for England's World Cup as she made her 20th start, overtaking former Manchester City and England teammate Jill Scott.

Throughout the game, England tried to test Spain's defence by using balls over the top and in behind, with Lauren Hemp- Manchester City forward - giving the European champions their best chance (a 15-yard curling effort which hit the crossbar) through her direct and aggressive performance. Although they suffered a heartbreaking the Lionesses became the first England senior side to reach a World Cup since the men's team in 1966 and continued to pave their way in inspiring the younger generation and proving why women's football deserves the attention of the public. This was also England's highest world cup finish and they did so in front of 14.8 million who watched across both BBC and ITV, which is a 75% increase in streams from 2019.

Spain, packed with many Barcelona players who are coming off their second Women's Champions League title, were able to force their strength and quality by working out how to deal with the high press of the English team, who were outplayed by La Roja's creativity and skill. Twelve months ago, Spain's manager- Jorge Vilda- dealt with a player revolt which meant this summer they were without Sandra Panos, Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro and Claudia Pina who were all part of Barcelona's winning side in June for the Champions League. But this victory could help reshape women's football in Spain which is now more mainstream with Barcelona's success. Alexia Putella is also the only player to have won the Ballon D'Or, Champions League and now the World Cup.

Spain's World Cup History:

2015- exit in the group stage

2019- knocked out in the round of 16

2023- World Champions

Back-to-back defeats for Sarina Wiegman:

2019- 2-0 to the USA with the Netherlands

2023- 1-0 to Spain with England

Player Awards:

FIFA Best Young Player: Salma Paralluelo (Spain)

Adidas Golden Glove Award: Mary Earps (England)

Adidas Golden Boot Award: Hinata Miyazawa (Japan)

Adidas Silver Boot Award: Kadidiatou Diani (France)

Adidas Bronze Boot Award: Alexandra Popp (Germany)

Adidas Golden Ball Award: Aitana Bonmati (Spain)

Adidas Silver Ball Award: Jennifer Hermoso (Spain)

Adidas Bronze Ball Award: Amanda Ilestedt (Sweden)

Tournament statistics:

Average attendance: 30,911 (highest since 2007)

Largest fan attendance: 1,852,579 (Australia- largest fan attendance in WWC history)

Next World Cup: 2027

Location: TBC


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