SYDNEY — Spain won its first Women’s World Cup title less than a year after a player rebellion, holding off England 1-0 on Sunday after Olga Carmona’s first-half goal.
The victory made La Roja the first team to hold the under-17, under-20 and senior world titles at the same time. Spain is the fifth winner in nine editions of the Women’s World Cup and joins Germany as the only two nations to win both the men’s and women’s tournament.
At the final whistle the Spanish players piled on each other in front of their goal. They were still dancing on the field until the trophy presentations, where they kissed the trophy and raised their arms in triumph as golden glitter fell from above.
The Lionesses were trying to bring a World Cup back to England for the first time since 1966, but fell just short.
“They’re a fantastic team. I think first half we weren’t our best, second half, we definitely put the fire in,” England captain Millie Bright said. “But yeah, we just couldn’t finish it today. This is the hard part of football.”
For England, Bright said, the loss brought a “huge amount of disappointment.”
“You know at first you feel like you failed with not winning,” she said. “I think in a couple of weeks and it settles it will be really really proud.”
In a heavily attacking game, Carmona’s left-foot strike in the 29th minute was the only goal.
In celebration she raised her jersey to reveal the word “Merchi” scrawled in ink on her undershirt, an apparent nod to her former school.
Carmona also scored the game-winner in the 89th minute of Spain’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Sweden, becoming the first player since Carli Lloyd in 2015 to score in a World Cup semifinal and final.
Spain had a chance to double the lead in the 68th but Jenni Hermoso’s penalty attempt was saved by Mary Earps, who anticipated perfectly and dived to her left.
Spain’s victory comes despite a near-mutiny by players last year. Fifteen players said they were stepping away from the national team for their mental health while also calling for a more professional environment.
Three of those players — Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí and Mariona Caldentey — reconciled with the federation and were at the World Cup.
England had momentum going into the tournament after winning the European Championship at home last summer. But three of the team’s best players, captain Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead, all had knee injuries that kept them off the World Cup squad.
England coach Sarina Wiegman was the first coach to take her teams to back-to-back World Cup title matches. She led the Netherlands to the final in 2019, but fell 2-0 to the United States. She’s now 0-2 in the championship match.
England was coming off a 3-1 victory over host Australia in the semifinal. Lauren James, who was the team’s top scorer with three goals and three assists, was forced to sit out two matches after being suspended for stomping on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie to open the knockout stage.
While James was available for the final, Wiegman started Ella Toone and used the Chelsea winger as a second-half substitute in a double change to spark the attack.
One of England’s best chances was in the 16th when Lauren Hemp’s blast caromed off the crossbar. A minute later, Salma Paralluelo raced to the goal but couldn’t get a clean shot and Earps stopped Alba Redondo’s attempt in the scramble in front of the net.
Coach Jorge Vilda started 19-year-old Paralluelo, who scored the breakthrough goal for Spain against Sweden, and the game-winner in extra time over the Netherlands in the quarterfinal. Those efforts helped her win the young player of the tournament award, while Earps won the Golden Glove for best goalkeeper and Bonmati won the Golden Ball for best player of the World Cup.
Paralluelo nearly scored seconds from half time but her shot hit the post.
Hemp had another chance in the 54th but sent it wide. A minute later she was handed a yellow card for a foul on Laia Codina.
Spain had a chance to double the lead midway through the second half after a video review awarded a penalty after Keira Walsh’s handball. But Earps kept England in the game, as she did with her succession of saves late.
Vilda had a challenge in working around two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who was still working her way back from a torn ACL last year. For the final, Putellas was on the bench at the start.
Putellas went into the game with 15 seconds left in regulation, but there were 13 minutes of stoppage time.
After the match Putellas was in tears as her teammates danced in front of the flag-waving fans behind the team’s bench.
There were 75,784 fans at the final at Stadium Australia, including tennis great Billie Jean King.
The two teams met last year in the quarterfinals of the Euros, with England coming from behind to beat Spain 2-1 in extra time on Georgia Stanway’s goal.
Story by Anne M. Peterson.