By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Captain Olga Carmona scored the winner in the first half as Spain won the Women’s World Cup for the first time by beating England 1-0 in front of 75,784 fans at Stadium Australia on Sunday.
La Roja, robbed of some of their best talent by a mutiny against coach Jorge Vilda only a few months ago and thrashed 4-0 by Japan in the group stage, outplayed England to deservedly claim their first major title in only their third World Cup.
Aitana Bonmati and Teresa Abelleira ran the game from the Spanish midfield and the margin of victory would have been greater had England goalkeeper Mary Earps not saved a second-half penalty from Jennifer Hermoso.
“It’s the best feeling of my life,” a tearful Hermoso said.
“We played the football we wanted to but I still think we are not aware of what we have achieved.”
Vilda became only the second male coach to win a major women’s tournament – the World Cup, the Olympics and the Euros – since 2000.
“What we did, it’s difficult to achieve,” he said. “Very proud of this team, we have shown we know how to play, that we know how to suffer, we have believed and we are world champions.”
England’s second defeat in 39 matches since Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman took over as coach denied them the chance to add a maiden world title to the European Championship crown they won last year.
“It’s really hard to take,” said captain Millie Bright. “We gave everything, in the first half we weren’t at our best but in the second half we were back.
“There was a lot of belief, we have been 1-0 down, we never give in. We are absolutely heartbroken but unfortunately we weren’t there today. The girls are unbelievable.”
The first Women’s World Cup final not to feature either the United States or Germany started at quite a pace with England just about enjoying the upper hand in the battle of two first-time finalists.
Forward Lauren Hemp continued where she left off in the semi-final against Australia and screwed the ball towards goal in the fifth minute before clipping a shot off the bar 12 minutes later.
Spain responded immediately, with Carmona overlapping down the left flank and driving the ball across the goal but teenager Salma Paralluelo was unable to make contact and Alba Redondo’s shot from the far post was well saved by Earps.
La Roja took the lead just before the half-hour mark after England were dispossessed in midfield and Abelleira curled a sublime cross-field pass to Mariona Caldentey, who slid the ball forward to Carmona.
The left back drove into the area and let fly with an angled shot which flew past the fingertips of Earps and into the far corner of the net.
The goal appeared to knock the stuffing out of England and Spain had the better of the rest of the half with Paralluelo pinging a shot off the post just before the break.
England have shown their adaptability throughout the tournament and Wiegman switched from three to four at the back after the break, while bringing Lauren James on for Alessia Russo up front.
Spain’s game, by contrast, has been unchanging and they continued to drive forward with Caldentey bringing a fine save out of Earps with a shot from the edge of the box in the 50th minute.
Bonmati hit the bar with a long-range effort just after the hour mark and the Spanish appealed vociferously for a handball against Keira Walsh during their next visit to the England box.
The award of a penalty looked a formality from the moment referee Tori Penso was instructed by VAR to review the footage but Earps dived low to her left to stop Hermoso’s spot kick.
James had a shot tipped over the bar by Spanish goalkeeper Cata Coll in the 75th minute but Spain were not content to sit on their lead and Earps had to be at her best to deny Ona Batlle as the clock hit the 90th minute mark.
England threw all 11 players forward for a corner deep into stoppage time but Coll, playing only her fourth international, came out confidently to gather the ball.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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