The Women’s World Cup has been a revelation! Australia and New Zealand have been excellent backdrops for drama-filled matches! This tournament has produced shocking upsets and shown the talent gap that used to exist between the top nations and others are dwindling. Now, the final is set! England takes on Spain one year removed from when the two nations met at the Europen Championship quarterfinals. England won that matchup 2-1; can they do it again, or will Spain take the title of World Champions?
Will England or Spain become a first-time World Champion?
This coming Sunday a champion will be crowned at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. There will be a first-time champion for the first time since Japan won the 2011 World Cup. Will England or Spain add themselves as the fifth winner of this tournament joining the USA (4-time champions,) Germany (2-time champions,) Japan (1-time winner,) and Norway (1-time winner.)
Let’s take a look at these two teams ahead of the biggest match in their history! Regina Ham takes a look at if the Lionesses can bring Football Home; Tim Lovenguth looks at how La Roja can overcome a whole lot of drama off the pitch by becoming World champions!
England: Is it actually Coming Home for the Lionesses?
England is the favorite heading into the final. The Lionesses have not lost a game in the tournament and notched up some impressive results, not least their 3-1 win over co-hosts Australia in the semifinal.
Yet as much success as England had, they still struggled against Nigeria in the quarterfinals. They could have beaten England if there had not been for some wayward finishing.
The Lionesses have a weapon in Keira Walsh. The Barcelona midfielder blessed her national team with grace, composure, and intelligence, and has been a vital cog in Sarina Wiegman’s machine.
While she didn’t score yet for England but she is England’s unsung hero, having dictated play in midfield for the Lionesses.
Wiegman has achieved history in the last few years, becoming the first manager to lead two nations to a World Cup final, coaching the Netherlands in its 2019 loss to the U.S. and now leading England against Spain.
Since getting the job in 2021, Weigman has harnessed England’s impressive talent pool, bringing many believed players of their caliber to play at the level that they were capable of.
Spain is gonna tire England out but they’re prepared. It’ll be the midfield where Spain will take place in midfield Spain’s tiki-taka rhythm is based on lots of possession and quick passing, lightly chipping away at a tiring defense until it finds a crack in the armor.
England is going to be able to draw on Lauren James.
The 21-year-old is one of the world’s up-and-coming stars of the women’s game and definitely a star for the World Cup.
Add in five goals in the last two games as Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo have found their rhythm together. They have what it takes to put La Roja in their place.
Spain: Can La Roja put their drama behind them by winning it all?
If you have watched Spain at the 2023 World Cup, you may think this team has always been one of the top sides in the Women’s game. They have won five of their six World Cup matches, scoring 17 goals and allowing seven. Their attack was predicated on trying to out-possessing and out-passing their opposition into oblivion, which paved their way to the final.
The sixth-ranked team in the World has dominated, but they have a whole lot going on off of the pitch as well. Like many nations’ soccer federations, Spain’s put very little into their women’s program in years past. Their rise over the past calendar year has helped them become one of the best in the World. However, there were some major issues with La Roja ahead of this World Cup.
The team that almost won the European Championship was in turmoil ahead of this World Cup. Back in September of 2022, 15 players emailed the federation asking to not be called up for their nation because of their federation’s lack of professionalism, and their coaches doing silly things like making the players keep their hotel doors open until midnight and checking their bags after out-of-camp excursions. After this was made public the federation backed head coach Jorge Vilda and asked the players to apologise.
It’s clear that the culture between the players, coaches, and federation was fractured. Some of the players who criticized the team did want to work with them to move forward, those players are on the roster for this World Cup. Like it or not, the controversy surrounding Spain will be a major issue whether they win the World Cup or not.
On the field, Spain has looked brilliant in their attacking play; their defense has been shaky at times, but if the game plan is executed then they are not called upon to be the main difference maker. Speaking of difference makers, Spain’s X-factor comes off the bench to completely change matches. Slama Paralluelo has come off the bench in the quarterfinals and semifinals and scored what would be the game-winning goal! She will be one to watch as the game gets to the later stages.
So will Spain’s possessive and passing style be enough to beat England? In last year’s European Championship quarterfinal, Spain out-possessed England and found the breakthrough goal early in the second half. They just had to hold onto the lead by keeping up with their style of play; however, England began to make the match a bit choppy and eventually found ways to test Spain’s defense getting a tying goal in the 84th minute and a winner in the 96th minute. If Spain wants to best England they will have to keep the intensity in their possession high and find ways to turn that possession into real goal-scoring chances. If they do that, they may just win the World Cup!
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Francisco Seco, AP Photo/Tertius Pickard, and AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino