Lionesses are the nation’s pride despite final heartbreak

England Women v Spain Women – FIFA Women’s World Cup Final – Stadium Australia – Report

England Women 0-1 Spain Women

England’s quest to win their first Women’s World Cup continues as the Lionesses slipped to an agonising 1-0 defeat against Spain in Sydney with Olga Carmona’s twenty-ninth minute finish proving to be the winner.

The Lionesses were outplayed by a Spanish side brimming with flair and creativity, who imposed their quality from the start, whilst sticking perfectly to a gameplan to nullify England’s high press.

The loss was only Sarina Wiegman’s second defeat as England manager and following the Netherlands’ 2-0 by the USA in 2019, her second World Cup final defeat in succession.

Spain made one change with Salma Paralluelo coming in for Alexia Putellas, whilst England named an unchanged starting lineup from their previous two games. Lauren James returned from suspension but was named on the substitutes bench.

With the game being played at a lightning pace from the opening whistle, after a quarter of an hour Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp’s curling fifteen-yard effort struck the crossbar. Almost immediately after, Spain also went close to opening the scoring when the ball was worked into the box from the left before finding Alba Redondo, whose shot from just five yards out was spectacularly pushed away by Mary Earps, only for the rebound to fall to Paralluelo, who with the goal at her mercy, miskicked and failed to hit the target.

Spain took the lead when Bronze was dispossessed in midfield by Teresa Abelleira before Mariona Caldentey’s short, simple pass switched play down the left for captain Carmona to run on and rifle a sensational effort past a diving Earps to make it 1-0 in the twenty-ninth minute and the Spanish were unfortunate not to go two up when Paralluelo’s first-time strike brushed the post on the stroke of half time.

Coach Wiegman introduced James and Chloe Kelly just after the break in place of Rachel Daly and Alyssia Russo, but Spain continued to dominate despite the Lionesses’ best efforts.

After a lengthy VAR review, Spain were awarded a penalty just after the hour mark when the ball brushed the hand of Keira Walsh from close range as Caldentey looked to go past the England midfielder. 

 With the spot kick further delayed after English protests regarding the ball not being placed correctly on the spot, Earps threw the Lionesses a lifeline by diving to her left to sensationally cling on to Jenni Hermoso’s shot.

There were questions near the end regarding a second booking for Paralluelo, who was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch after kicking the ball away, having previously been shown a yellow card for a foul on Alex Greenwood.

Despite an end-to-end finish, it proved to be just one step too far for the Lionesses as despite Spain’s pre-tournament disarray with twelve players declaring themselves unavailable due to issues with coach Jorge Vilda, it was they who celebrated having triumphed on the biggest stage of all as the England players, many in tears, watched on dejectedly as Carmona proudly lifted the trophy at the end.   

England manager Sarina Wiegman spoke to BBC Sport following the match: “Everyone has seen an incredible game, a very open game, two teams who want to play football. A game of two halves for us. The first half we struggled to press the ball. We changed it second half, back to 4-3-3, and I think we got some momentum then. But then the tempo went out of the game.

“We got momentum and then gave away the penalty. And the injury with Alex [Greenwood]. After all, Spain were just a little bit better than we were today and they had a great tournament. Congrats for Spain.

“Of course, it feels really bad now. We’re very disappointed. What we have done, what we have shown, to play how we have as a team, overcoming so many challenges, we can be so proud of ourselves. Only it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.”

England goalkeeper Mary Earps speaking to Sky Sports News“I don’t think that [making people proud] really hits right now, to be honest. I think it will in a couple of weeks, I hope we can look back and reflect.

“I know getting to a World Cup final is an incredible achievement, but now, we’re disappointed. We’re competitors, we came here for the gold medal and we were so close. We just fell short.

“We’ve overcome a lot of adversity to be in this position. I’m really proud of the team for that and I think there’s more levels to go as well.”

Bethany England speaking to Sky Sports News: “I just want to say thank you to everyone that’s followed us, whether you’ve travelled out here or followed back at home, you’ve been with us every step of the way for every kick, every tackle, every penalty save that Mary makes.

“I want to say a massive thank you to everyone and we’re sorry we couldn’t get there in the end but I hope we’ve done you proud.

“I hope there’s so many young girls out there that can see this and think that they can achieve that. I hope there’s still more funding that gets pumped into that, make sure there’s pathways and programmes, any resources possible to make sure that as a nation, we continue to strive forward.

“We made history getting here and that was for everyone past, present and future to come that we’ve shown we can do it. We just fell short at the last hurdle and hopefully, that chance comes around again and we get across the line next time.”

England Women: Mary Earps. Jess Carter, Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood, Lucy Bronze, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Rachel Daly (Chloe Kelly 45’) Ella Toone (Bethany England 87’) Alessia Russo (Lauren James 45’) Lauren Hemp Subs not used: Niamh Charles, Jordan Nobbs, Hannah Hampton, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Esme Morgan, Laura Coombs, Katie Zelem, Ellie Roebuck, Katie Robinson

Spain Women: Cata Coll, Ona Batlle, Irene Paredes, Laia Codina (Ivana Andres 73’) Olga Carmona, Aitana Bonmati Teresa Abelleira, Jennifer Hermoso, Alba Redondo (Oihane Hernandez 60’) Salma Paralluelo, Mariona Caldentey (Alexia Putellas 90’) Subs not used: Misa Rodriguez, Irene Guerrero, Esther Gonzalez, Enith Salon, Eva Navarro, Maria Perez, Rocio Galvez, Claudia Zornoza, Athenea del Castillo

Referee: Tori Penso

Assistants: Kathryn Nesbitt and Brooke Mayo

Fourth Official: Yoshimi Yamashita 

VAR: Tatiana Guzmán

Assistant VAR: Pol van Boeke

Offside VAR: Ella de Vrie

Support VAR: Armando Villarreal

Attendance: 75,784