By Femi Atolagbe
Spain won the Women’s World Cup for the first time in history with skipper Olga Carmona sweeping in the only goal for a deserved 1-0 victory over England in Sunday’s final.
In front of a crowd of nearly 76 000 at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Spain were the more accomplished side and had more chances, including missing a second-half penalty.
Spain’s triumph is vindication for Jorge Vilda and the Spanish football federation, who stuck with the coach even after 15 players last year said they no longer wanted to represent their country under him.
England coach Sarina Wiegman, who has now suffered back-to-back defeats in the final, and her European champions can have few complaints.
Spain are the fifth team to lift the World Cup since the tournament began in 1991, joining outgoing champions the United States, Germany, Norway and Japan.
In front of Spain’s Queen Letizia, defender Carmona scored what turned out to be the winner, rampaging from left-back to thrash the ball in low and hard on 29 minutes.
Wiegman had resisted the temptation to recall Chelsea attacker Lauren James after her two-match ban and kept faith with the team that beat co-hosts Australia 3-1 in the semifinals.
Playing in their blue second kit, England had the first sniff of a chance in the fifth minute but Lauren Hemp shot weakly at goalkeeper Cata Coll.
There was little to choose between them in the opening exchanges before both teams had golden opportunities on the quarter-hour mark.
First, Manchester City forward Hemp struck the bar with a curler that had Coll well beaten.
Spain went up the other end and should have scored but Salma Paralluelo – in for Alexia Putellas – missed the ball in the six-yard box.
Then Alba Redondo hit a first-time strike straight at goalkeeper Mary Earps with the England goal gaping.
Hemp then had another tame effort saved, before the game was momentarily held up in the 24th minute when a spectator darted on to the pitch before being wrestled away by security.
Five minutes later Spain, who had never won a knockout game at the Women’s World Cup until this tournament and had lost 4-0 to Japan in the group phase, were ahead.
Mariona Caldentey slid in an inch-perfect pass for Carmona, who came flying unmarked down the left before lashing the ball into the bottom corner.