It was not to be for our five Lionesses as England were beaten 1-0 by Spain in the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney.
Olga Carmona scored the only goal on the half-hour, and it needed a Mary Earps penalty save midway through the second half to prevent Spain extending their lead.
Mille Bright captained the Lionesses once more and finished the game in attack as England sought a late equaliser. Jess Carter, perhaps England’s best outfield player on the night, featured in three different positions and Lauren James came off the bench at half-time. Niamh Charles and Hannah Hampton remained unused substitutes.
Unlike plenty of the knockout games at this tournament, the final did not start cagily. Lauren Hemp had an early sighter while Spain were soon into their stride, several passing moves showcasing their technical ability.
Both sides so nearly opened the scoring on the quarter-hour. First, Hemp curled a fine effort onto the bar from just inside the box as England worked the ball from side to side. Play went down the other end and a low cross was completely missed by Salma Paralleulo, five yards out, before the ball reached Alba Redondo at the far post. She steered an effort goalwards but straight at Earps, who clawed the ball away.
However, Spain weren’t to be denied in the 29th minute. Lucy Bronze lost possession in the centre circle and England were punished, the overlapping Spanish skipper Carmona picking her spot to perfection.
The dangerous Hemp had another shot saved but it was Spain who went closest to a second before the interval, Paralleulo tickling the outside of the post with a sharp shot on the turn.
Wiegman introduced James and Chloe Kelly at half-time and changed shape to 4-3-3. Carter moved to left-back, with James ahead of her on the left flank.
It was Spain who first threatened, Earps producing a superb full-stretch save to tip Mariona Caldentey’s 20-yarder around the post. Hemp then shot wide from a teasing Kelly delivery as the Lionesses’ new shape helped get more bodies in the final third.
VAR intervened in Spain’s favour midway through the second half. The ball hit Keira Walsh’s hand inside the box and, after a very lengthy check by those inside the VAR studio and the on-pitch referee, the decision was penalty.
However, Earps guessed right – diving low to her left – to hold Jennifer Hermoso’s weak spot-kick. England had a reprieve and 20 minutes, plus considerable added time, remained.
James nearly caught Cata Coll out at her near post with a fierce rising drive from a narrow angle. The Spain keeper tipped over.
England threw on Bethany England and moved Bright upfield as the clock ticked down. Spain continued to threaten on the counter, and it needed a superb block from Carter to stop Hermoso’s shot testing Earps.
Thirteen added minutes were signalled, at the start of which Earps produced another stunning save to keep Spain’s lead at just one. England tried to summon one last chance but it was not to be, so the Lionesses' maiden appearance in a World Cup final ended in a heartbreaking defeat.
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