Spain advances to its first Women’s World Cup final with a dramatic victory over Sweden. With a surprising 2-1 win in Auckland, New Zealand, Spain made more Women’s World Cup history by upsetting favorite Sweden and advancing to the finals for the first time.
After most of the match passed without much to write about, three goals in the final 10 minutes lit up the Eden Park semifinal.
Salma Paralluelo’s goal in the 81st minute that broke the deadlock appeared to have won it for Spain, but Rebecka Blomqvist’s goal in the 88th minute brought Sweden equal.
However, as extra time approached, Spain responded with brutality and promptness. Olga Carmona scored the game-winning goal with a sublime strike from the perimeter of the penalty area 94 seconds after Sweden had equalized the score.
Spain, which is competing in its third World Cup but has never advanced past the round of 16, is now one game away from claiming the sport’s most fabulous prize.
When asked what she thought as the final whistle blew, Paralluelo told reporters, “My family, everyone who supports me, and in them [the players] because we merited it. We’ve taken this small stride and now have one more substantial push. Only the final remains; we must continue to perform as we have in every match.
“We’ve been facing one challenge after another, and now we’re facing the biggest one yet; we’ll work hard to overcome it.”
La Roja were so dominant in possession against Sweden, the third-ranked team in the world. They have been so impressive in the knockout phases that they are confident of defeating Australia or England in Sunday’s final.
Only the United States has appeared in more World Cup semifinals than Sweden, but Spain had the creativity and stardust.
Leading figures in Spain praised the team’s accomplishment. “To the final!” Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, while Andrés Iniesta, the men’s World Cup winner for Spain, referred to the players as “giants.”
A Hollywood actor, Antonio Banderas, posted on social media: “Bravo!!! Proud of this team of women’s football athletes who possess class, heart, and self-confidence. “Thank you so much!”
An impressive accomplishment.
Given the turbulent year women’s football in Spain has endured, Spain’s ascent on the international stage is all the more remarkable.
Last September, 15 players declared themselves unavailable for selection, citing dissatisfaction with head coach Jorge Vilda’s training methodologies.
The Spanish football federation (RFEF) supported Vilda, and several players, including Alexia Putellas, a two-time Ballon d’Or winner, returned to the fold. Vilda thanked the union for its support following the 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, telling reporters, “Without that, we would not be here.” I am sure that none of this would have occurred.”
Spain’s ability to reach the championship game without some of the nation’s finest players speaks volumes about the depth of its talent pool. Having been used as a substitute in the previous World Cup knockout stages, Putellas started against Sweden as she regained fitness and form after suffering a severe knee injury last year.
Paralluelo is influential.
19-year-old Paralluelo, who replaced Putellas in the 57th minute, contributed significantly to Spain’s victory.
Before her entry, Spain dominated possession and had several opportunities to take the lead – Captain Carmona and Aitana Bonmati came near from afar in the first half.
However, Sweden’s defense was not significantly threatened until Paralluelo’s cut-back in the 69th minute presented Alba Redondo with a golden opportunity to score from four yards out. Still, the Spaniard shot into the side netting.
Nonetheless, it served as a warning to the Swedes, who had their finest opportunity late in the first half when Fridolina Rolfo forced Spain custodian Cata Coll into a fine save from close range.
With the opening goal, Paralluelo, who scored the extra-time victory against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, became the second-youngest player to score in a Women’s World Cup semifinal and enlivened a lackluster match.
Blomqvist’s third tournament goal appeared to have forced extra time before Carmona scored the game-winning goal.
Sweden has now lost four World Cup semifinals and was eliminated this time by Spain’s two shots on goal.