In a nail-biting final at the Accor Stadium in Sydney on Sunday, Spain defeated England 1-0 to win the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023.
After taking the lead in the first half on a goal by Spanish captain Olga Carmona, the team never looked back. Meanwhile, England's Lauren Hemp had the best chance of the first half but missed. As a result, Spain was able to claim their first World Cup victory.
Given the rough year the national team had had, it seemed incredible that Spain had made it to the final. The fact that La Roja won against the defending European champion and pre-match favourite despite the disagreements and divisions that have plagued the national squad throughout the tournament is remarkable.
Spain has now become the second nation after Germany to win the men's and women's World Cups, and they did so despite missing a penalty in the second half.
Many English players were in tears when Spain achieved their goal of becoming the country's first senior soccer global champion since 1966. Spain celebrated their victory by making a jubilant heap of red on the Stadium Australia surface.
When it came to shots on goal and overall dominance, Spain was simply superior to England. However, the Lionesses might take heart in the fact that they advanced further than ever before in a Women's World Cup competition, much like La Roja. England had also made a mark, even in loss.
Prince William praised the "spirit" of the Lionesses, writing on X (previously known as Twitter): "Although it's the result none of us wanted, Lionesses you have done yourselves and this nation proud."
Alexia Putellas, a midfielder for Spain, was tasked with a new duty at this year's Women's World Cup. After sustaining an ACL injury just before the European Championships last year, Putellas battled back to be fit enough for World Cup selection.
Putellas, a two-time Ballon d'Or Féminin winner and one of the world's top players, was mostly used as a substitute in Australia and New Zealand because she hadn't completely regained her old form.
Irene Paredes, a colleague of Putellas's at Barcelona and for Spain, is credited with helping her through some of her worst moments.
She expressed her gratitude to the pioneers who had come before them and supported them, as well as to her teammates and the pioneers on her squad. "I'm happy for everyone that feels part of this," she added. “This is also for them."
As for Putellas' diminished position at this World Cup, she took a pragmatic view, noting, "That's football."
"One day, it’s your turn, another day, it’s somebody else’s turn," she said. "For me, what is key is the respect we [the players] have for each other."
Rising star Salma Paralluelo encouraged Spanish supporters to "dream big" after their national side won the Women's World Cup.
The 19-year-old thanked her family for always encouraging her to do her best and be a member of the Spain team that won the Under-20 Women's World Cup in 2022.
"Thank you so much to my family for helping me grow like I have, for always pushing me to dream and not put limits on myself," she said to the press.
"They're the reason that I'm here today. Football is football and many things can happen on the pitch, but you have to believe until the very end.
"You have to dream big to achieve big things and, when the opportunity arrives, take advantage of it.
"We can't stop here, we need to keep putting women's football on top."
Veteran defender Irene Paredes, when asked if this was her last World Cup, evaded the question but said she "tried to believe" that her team would win.
"Because if not, it's impossible to come here," she told reporters. "So it was a dream and it's been quite hard, but we knew it was possible and finally we showed it."
"We know [England's] qualities, we have a really good team and we've been doing a lot of work. We were confident in ourselves and, finally, we showed the world how we can play and show 'This is Spain.'"
La Roja won the World Cup despite being down 12 veteran starters due to injuries and suspensions before the competition in Australia and New Zealand. However, Spain's future is bright since the country's youth national teams are the current Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup champions.
Teresa Abelleira, a midfielder for the team, paid tribute to the first Brazilian woman to play football at the international level.
"It's indescribable," she said to the press. "What we've achieved is incredible. I still don't think what we've just achieved has really sunk in. We're super happy."
She went on to say, "Things have been going well with the youth teams in the last couple of years," referring to Spain's success at the U17 and U20 World Cups.
"But we have to look further back than that and at the women who started in the national team without any resources when nobody believed in them and they fought so we could be here today."
Mary Earps, England's goalkeeper, was a standout performer in the Women's World Cup final. Her spectacular saves kept the Lionesses competitive with Spain.
After the 1-0 loss to La Roja, Earps told reporters that she would "have traded it any day for a gold medal," though she might appreciate her achievement "when the emotion settles." Her consistent brilliance throughout the competition earned her the Golden Glove awarded to the best goalkeeper of the World Cup.
"I'm proud of that, of course," she added, "but we set out to get a gold medal tonight, and all those individual things, they come secondary to team success."
"We've overcome a lot of adversity to be in this position," Earps said, and added, "I'm really proud of the girls." Not many people get to a World Cup final and I know that's something to be proud of, but right now, it's superseded by a lot of emotion."
"Generally, we just couldn't find that goal, couldn't find that breakthrough," she said. "I think there were a few things that we could have done better, but ultimately, it is what it is. You’re playing against a fantastic side and the result didn’t go our way tonight."
The Lionesses of England, led by Sarina Wiegman, were honoured by their coach for "overcoming so many challenges" to win the Women's World Cup.
"Of course, it feels really bad now," she admitted. "We got to the final and then we lose it, but how we have shown ourselves, who we are, how we want to play, overcoming so many challenges we can be very proud, but it doesn’t feel that way at the moment."
Furthermore, Wiegman said, "Spain were a little bit better than us today and they had a great tournament, so congratulations to them."
After falling behind after 30 minutes on Olga Carmona's goal, England opted to switch formations at halftime.
"Two very different halves for us. The first half, we really struggled to have pressure on the ball, so we changed in the second back to 4-3-3, which gave us momentum," Wiegman said.
"I thought we got momentum, but then the penalty and then the injury with Alex Greenwood, and we lost it."