Spain deservedly beat England to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup in a tense final that went right to the wire in Sydney despite a heroic penalty save from Mary Earps late on as captain Olga Carmona netted the only goal in the first half.
As was always to be expected, Spain controlled the majority of possession. Ona Batlle also posed a threat as an out ball down right on several occasions early on, although it was England who first went closest to a goal when Lauren Hemp curled a shot onto the crossbar 15 minutes in.
Moments later, Earps made a huge save to deny Alba Redondo’s back post volley, but Salma Paralluelo had first failed to connect with the easier chance in the middle of the six-yard box. Hemp then didn’t strike a shot with conviction in the end-to-end exchanges.
England had enjoyed more touches in Spain’s box, yet it was the impressive Carmona who drew first blood. Lucy Bronze had failed to track back after losing the ball in a bad area and the Spanish captain drove forwards down the left, firing low and hard into the far corner.
Buoyed by the goal, Spain were picking passes a little better in the attacking third as the first half progressed. Irene Paredes snatched at a volley from a very good position after a surprisingly poor Millie Bright clearance, while Paralluelo struck the foot of the post in first-half stoppage time.
Identifying the drastic need for her team to do something different, Sarina Wiegman dispensed with 3-4-1-2 at half-time in favour of bringing back 4-3-3. Lauren James and Chloe Kelly were both added to the fold, with Jess Carter moving across from right centre-back to left-back.
But it was still Spain who came forward with the first chance of the half, as Mariona Caldentey forced a brilliant low save from Earps after giving Bronze the runaround. Hemp missed the chance to equalise when Kelly fired in a stunning cross from the right, yet Spain’s dominance continued when Aitana Bonmati burst forward and narrowly missed the target with a long-range drive.
Earps kept England in the final when she denied Hermoso from the penalty spot, guessing right after a lengthy VAR check penalised a handball from Keira Walsh.
England were spurred on but couldn’t pick their way through a resilient Spain defence, while any momentum was promptly halted when Alex Greenwood needed lengthy treatment for a head injury following an accidental collision with Paralluelo.
If anything, Spain had the better chances to score the next goal as time ticked away. Only a flying Jess Carter block denied Hermoso, while Earps outwitted former clubmate Batlle to save with her feet.
Even with Millie Bright thrown up front in 13 minutes of stoppage time, England couldn’t find a way through and the Spanish team were only too happy to eat up the rest of the clock by drawing fouls.
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GK: Cata Coll – 6/10 – Would have expected to be busier than she was in the end. Made a big claim from a 105th minute corner to effectively end the game.
RB: Ona Batlle – 7/10 – Got forward repeatedly to positive effect multiple times.
CB: Irene Paredes – 7/10 – Stood up the challenges that England presented.
CB: Laia Codina – 5/10 – Passed extremely well but looked the weak link in the Spanish back four.
LB: Olga Carmona (c) – 8/10 – Carried the ball forward several times with driving runs a few times before opening the scoring with a fine finish.
CM: Aitana Bonmati – 8/10 – Grew into the game really well to cause all sorts of problems for England after a surprisingly quiet start on the periphery. The biggest difference between the teams.
CM: Teresa Abelleira – 8/10 – Kept things ticking over in the heart of Spain’s midfield and made it tough for England to play through the middle.
CM: Jenni Hermoso – 7/10 – Was starting to dictate play for Spain after her team went ahead, but couldn’t beat Earps from the spot to make it 2-0.
RW: Alba Redondo – 6/10 – Forced a brilliant early save out of Earps at 0-0.
ST: Salma Paralluelo – 8/10 – Given the nod ahead of Alexia Putellas. Movement was tough to track for England defenders and even hit the post on the stroke of half-time.
LW: Mariona Caldentey – 7/10 – Pressed well out of possession to try and force defensive errors. Only a top save from Earps stopped her doubling Spain’s lead soon after the break.
SUB: Oihane Hernandez (60′ for Redondo) – 6/10
SUB: Ivana Andres (73′ for Codina) – 6/10
SUB: Alexia Putellas (90′ for Caldentey) – N/A
Subs not used: Rodriguez (GK), Salon (GK), Rocio, Perez, Guerrero, Zornoza, Navarro, Gonzalez, Del Castillo
Jorge Vilda – 7/10 – Made the big call pre-game by bringing Paralluelo into the starting XI and dropping Putellas to the bench.
GK: Mary Earps – 8/10 – Made an important early save from Redondo when it was easier for the Spain forward to score. Kept her team in the game with other stops too, including from the penalty spot.
CB: Jess Carter – 8/10 – Showed her versatility by switching to left-back after the interval. A brilliant block in the 89th minute summed up her entire World Cup.
CB: Millie Bright (c) – 6/10 – Commanding in the air. Finished the game up front.
CB: Alex Greenwood – 7/10 – Needed patching up after suffering a nasty cut to the head late on. Didn’t pass as accurately as she normally does but was fired up defensively.
RM: Lucy Bronze – 4/10 – Ran her way into trouble when Spain went ahead, losing the ball, leaving space behind her and making no effort to track back and recover. Poor defensively overall.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 7/10 – Took up a deeper screening role to try and limit Spain’s options. Tackled with bite and tenacity as usual.
CM: Keira Walsh – 6/10 – A little unfortunate to concede a penalty but can have few complaints in the letter of the law. Not as influential as she can be.
LM: Rachel Daly – 6/10 – Needed to stay defensively sharp with the constant threat from Batlle. Just about won that battle over 45 minutes, before being sacrificed tactically.
AM: Ella Toone – 5/10 – Initially occupied good positions in the pockets of space between Spain’s lines, but faded from prominence as the Spanish took more control.
ST: Alessia Russo – 5/10 – Worked hard but didn’t see a lot of the ball and was a casualty of the need to change things up at half-time.
ST: Lauren Hemp – 7/10 – Struck the crossbar early on and was England’s most consistent threat.
SUB: Lauren James (46′ for Daly) – 6/10
SUB: Chloe Kelly (46′ for Russo) – 6/10
SUB: Bethany England (87′ for Toone) – N/A
Subs not used: Roebuck (GK), Hampton (GK), Charles, Wubben-Moy, Morgan, Coombs, Zelem, Nobbs, Robinson
Sarina Wiegman – 6/10 – Rolled the dice at half-time with a formation change, but her team just didn’t have it on the day.