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Spain Beats England To Win a Groundbreaking Women’s World Cup

4 minute read

The precision and attack was there all game long. Plus, Spain never made a costly mistake: the La Roja defense never broke down, and never gave England an easy chance. England spent the World Cup final chasing, hoping, and making some key errors.  

So Spain is the World Cup champion.

Spain defeated England 1-0 on Sunday in Sydney, in a tense, entertaining World Cup final to give La Roja its first-ever women’s World Cup title. Olga Carmona scored the deciding goal in the 29th minute, off an assist from Mariona Caldente. Carmona’s artful, diagonal shot snuck inside the right post to give Spain the lead. 

Not even a brilliant penalty kick save in the second half, by Lioness keeper Mary Earpes, could turn the game around for England. Spain’s Jenni Hermoso shot to her right, where Earpes dove to thwart it. “F–k off!” Earpes yelled in front of the world, her lips quite easy to read. That moment offered energy to England. But that infusion of momentum was all too brief.

In the 15th minute of second-half stoppage time, England had a final opportunity, but a corner kick curled into the arms of Spain keeper Cata Coll. She cradled the ball, fell to the ground, and waited for the final whistle. Once it blew, Spanish players piled on one another in the goal box. 

Spain’s victory marks a sea of change in women’s soccer, and sends a searing message to the United States, long the dominant force in the game. Spain, a traditional men’s global soccer power, neglected the women’s game for years. Spain didn’t even qualify for its first World Cup until four years ago. For years, the Spanish soccer federation couldn’t even be bothered to produce jerseys designed for women. Spain finally offered a domestic professional league in 2021. 

But La Roja still raised the championship trophy. The world cares about women’s soccer. The Spains and Englands are here to say going forward. 

The U.S. must raise its game. 

England continues to feel frustration on the global stage. The storyline going into this final centered on “bringing football home” to the place that invented the game. England’s men, all too famously, haven't  won a World Cup since 1966. Could the women offer some redemption? That’s now a question for another day.   

Spain’s win doesn’t come without an off-field controversy, of the sort that’s still too prevalent in women’s soccer. About a year ago a group of 15 players, tired of coach Jorge Vilda’s reportedly dictatorial and micromanaging style—he ordered his players, according to one report, to keep their hotel doors open so he could make sure they were present in the rooms—demanded change. The federation supported Vilda, and most of the players who protested weren’t on the World Cup roster. 

But Spain’s talent pool is so deep and technically savvy, it didn’t even matter at this event. Spain won anyway. 

England came out strong at the start. An early Lauren Hemp shot looked true; but it hit the top of the post. But Spain began to dominate possession, and with the stellar Spain forward Salma Paralluelo chasing down England star Lucy Bronze near midfield, Bronze dribbled into a buzzsaw of three Spanish players, turning the ball over. On the counterattack, Carmona streaked up the left side to create enough space to put in what would become the winning goal.  

This was the first women’s World Cup where the first-, second-, and third-place finishers—Spain, England and Sweden, who defeated Australia 2-0 on Saturday in the third place game—all came from Europe. Spain now holds the under-17, under-20, and senior World Cup titles at the same time. This was Spain’s World Cup. It just could be the first of many.   

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com