Before the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 kicked off, not many would have counted Spain among the favourites to reach the final.
With a squad splintered down the middle due to protests against the Spanish football federation and several players sharing a frosty relationship with manager Jorge Vilda, it would not have been a surprise if Spain had made an early exit this time out.
But the La Roja are now just one win away from securing a maiden World Cup, with England standing in their way in the final on Sunday.
Here is how Spain made its way into the Women’s World final:
Spain started the groups stage like a house on fire. The European side first dismantled Costa Rica 3-0, with a devastating first-half performance, where it scored three goals in six minutes.
Next up was World Cup debutant Zambia. This time the victory margin swelled further - 5-0. Braces from Jennifer Hermoso and Alba Redonodo meant Spain secured its progression to the knockouts.
But all the momentum it accrued was knocked off its sails, by a devastating Japanese counterattack display. The Asian side secured a massive 4-0 win, despite Spain enjoying a 78% possession share.
Round of 16
To Spain’s credit, it quickly bounced back from the Japanese disintegration as it beat fellow European side Switzerland in a goal fest. Vilda’s side took the lead early, but the Swiss equalised quickly.
From there on it was all Spain, as it added four more goals to win 5-1 and progress into the quarterfinals.
Spain was pushed to the limit by Netherlands, with the game requiring an extra time after the regulation time ended 1-1.
The Iberian nation thought it had won the match through a Mariona Caldentey penalty goal in the 81st minute. But the Dutch side struck back in the injury time to prolong the contest.
Spain found its saviour in substitute Salma Paralluelo, who popped up with wonderful solo goal to seal its maiden semifinal entry in the tournament.
In the last four, Spain had to deal with the experienced Sweden, which was coming on the back of eliminating the mighty USA from the tournament.
In a game that burst into life in the last 10 minutes, Paralluelo again gave her side the lead late in the game, after coming off the bench. The Swedes were not one to give up as they scored in the 88th minute and looked set to push the game into extra time.
But Spain retook the lead in a matter of seconds through Olga Carmona through an innovative short corner routine.
Spain will face European Champion England, which eliminated host Australia in the other semifinal, in the final on Sunday, with the game scheduled to kick off at 3.30 PM IST.
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