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2023 Women's World Cup

Spain wins first Women’s World Cup title, defeating England, 1-0

Olga Carmona’s goal stood as the winner. Spain now holds the U-17, U-20 and senior World Cup titles at the same time.

Noe Llamas / SPP

Olga Carmona’s first-half goal held up for Spain in a 1-0 victory over England on Sunday at Stadium Australia in Sydney, delivering Spain its first Women’s World Cup title.

The Big Story: Both Spain and England were in search of their first Women’s World Cup titles on Sunday, and while England had more experience at this stage as semifinalists in the past two editions and reigning European champions, Spain dictated play from the start.

England head coach Sarina Wiegman started the game with the 3-5-2 formation that she had settled on mid-tournament, but Spain pounced on the vacant space left by England behind wingbacks Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze, with Aitana Bonmati pulling the strings in midfield to quickly switch play. The strategy paid off in the 29th minute, when Carmona scored.

Wiegman made two substitutions at halftime and shifted to a 4-2-3-1 to counteract Spain. The strategy worked only to a degree. England conceded a penalty kick that Jenni Hermoso eventually struck in the 69th minute, but it was hit softly and England goalkeeper Mary Earps caught it while diving to her left (and promptly stood up to yell “F*CK OFF” after England’s disagreement with the call that was eventually made after video review). The Lionesses pushed for a winner late in a more aggressive three-back that moved Millie Bright up front, but Spain held steady.

The Big Moment: Bonmati and Teresa Abelleira combined to strip Bronze of the ball in midfield, and with Bronze well out of position from her right-wingback role, Abelleira hit a bit ball to that very space, where Mariona Caldentey was waiting. Carmona overlapped Caldentey and hit a low shot past Earps and inside the far post.

What it Means: Spain’s first senior World Cup title is confirmation of La Roja’s arrival as a major player on the world stage. This is a youth program revolutionizing player development and winning simultaneously. Spain won the U-20 and U-17 World Cups last year, plus four of the past five U-19 European titles. This is a golden generation, and it is not going to be a blip. Spain becomes just the fifth country to win a Women’s World Cup title (United States four times; Germany twice; Norway once; Japan once) but it will not be the last that they challenge for. Barcelona’s dominance at the club level, and that team’s influecne on Spain’s national team, serves as further evidence.

The title is an incredible feat for the most technically gifted set of players in the tournament, although it is not without negative context. Last fall, 15 players revolted against head coach Jorge Vilda and the federation’s standards for the women’s team. They were met with pushback from federation leadership, who backed Vilda, and ostracized from the team. Only three of the 15 eventually returned for the World Cup, with stars like defender Mapi Leon and midfielder Patri Guijarro left at home. Asked about the circumstances a day before the final, Vilda simply said: “Next question.” Will Spain’s victory provide a platform for the players to demand change, now that the whole country is paying attention? Or will the federation feel justified in their actions and double down? Those answers will partly shape the team’s future.

For now, though, the best team at this World Cup just won the tournament. The players on the field were exceptional, from 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo — who scored in the quarterfinal and semifinal — to Bonmati, Abelleira and Jenni Hermoso in midfield, to Carmona, who — as a left-fullback — scored the game-winning goals in the semifinal and final.

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