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Road to the Women’s World Cup final: Spain aims for first-ever title

Jennifer Hermoso Spain Jennifer Hermoso - The Canadian Press

A thrilling game-winning goal from Olga Carmona in the 89th minute in Tuesday’s 2-1 semifinal win over Sweden has put Spain on the brink of history.

Like England, their opponent in Sunday morning’s championship game (6 am ET/3 am PT on TSN, and the TSN App), neither team has ever played in the Women’s World Cup final. As well, a new champion will be crowned this year for the first time since 2011 when Japan won the title.

However, unlike England, Spain has dealt with ongoing turmoil with the national team. Last year, 15 Spanish players boycotted the team, citing head coach Jorge Vilda’s mistreatment of players and the negative atmosphere surrounding the team. The Spanish football federation has stood by Vilda and a few of the 15 who boycotted are playing the tournament but other high-profile names such as Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro and Claudia Pina stayed home.

Placed in Group C with Japan, Zambia and Costa Rica, Spain also failed to get out of the quarterfinals in the 2022 Euros and were runner-ups at the 2023 Cup of Nations.

In group stage play, Spain handled Costa Rica and Zambia with ease. Against Costa Rica, the Spanish pulled away with the 3-0 victory, where they got three goals in a six-minute stretch from Valeria del Campo, Aitana Bonmati and Esther Gonzalez.

They dominated in Game 2 against Zambia with both Jennifer Hermoso and Alba Redondo scoring twice and Teresa Abelleira netting the game-winner in the ninth minute in a 5-0 win.

Spain ran into adversity in their final group-stage game against Japan on July 31, losing 4-0 as the Japanese claimed the top spot in Group C.

The Spanish rallied in the Round of 16 on Aug. 5, dominating Switzerland 5-1 with the Swiss’ only offence an own goal from Laia Codina, who made up for it with a goal in the 45th minute. Bonmati also had a brace with Redondo and Hermoso also adding to their goal totals.

In the quarterfinals last Thursday, 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo played the hero for Spain, scoring the game-winner in extra time in the 111th minute, securing a 2-1 win over the Netherlands. Spain had taken a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick from Mariona Caldentey in the 81st but in stoppage time Stefanie van der Gragt stepped up with the equalizer for the Dutch before Paralluelo’s big moment.

Against Sweden in the semifinals, both teams struggled to put their chances away until Paralluelo again stepped up for Spain, scoring in the 81st minute. Sweden would respond seven minutes later with Rebecka Blomqvist tying the game. The tie would last for one minute before Carmona’s dramatic goal to take the lead and eventually the game.

This is Spain’s third appearance at the Women’s World Cup. They debuted at the 2015 tournament in Canada, where they finished last in Group E and failed to advance to the knockout stage. In 2019, they finished second in their group before being eliminated by the eventual champions United States in the Round of 16.