England’s wait to win a first Women’s World Cup title goes on after Spain deservedly triumphed in the final in Sydney.
The Lionesses, looking to become the first England senior side since the men’s team in 1966 to win the World Cup, were outplayed by a Spanish side full of flair and creativity.
England’s players fell to their knees in tears at the final whistle as Spain celebrated inside their area after dealing with a final corner kick in the 14th minute of nerve-wracking stoppage time.
Spain captain Olga Carmona slotted the winner past goalkeeper Mary Earps in the first half, after England’s Lucy Bronze lost possession in midfield.
England manager Sarina Wiegman, who has now lost two successive World Cup finals, introduced Lauren James and Chloe Kelly at half-time but Spain maintained control despite the Lionesses’ best efforts.
Earps made several stunning saves, including one from the penalty spot to deny Jenni Hermoso after Barcelona midfielder Keira Walsh had been penalised for handball following a lengthy video assistant referee review.
But it was one step too far for the European champions, who lost just their second match in two years under Wiegman.
Spain are crowned champions for the first time despite going into the tournament under a cloud of controversy following a dispute between players and the Spanish football federation.
England, who played in front of a sold-out Wembley crowd last summer to win the Euros final, had hoped to rely on experience and they started brightly, testing Spain’s defence with balls over the top and in behind.
Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp was direct and aggressive, and had England’s best chance but her curling effort from 15 yards hit the crossbar.
But Spain, packed with Barcelona stars who won their second Women’s Champions League title this season, imposed their quality and worked out how to deal with England’s high press.
They grew into the game, exposing the spaces left by England’s attacking full-backs and took their chance when Bronze cut inside from the right and lost the ball in the centre circle.
Spain intelligently switched play to their left and Carmona ran on to a simple pass from Mariona Caldentey and stroked the ball low past a diving Earps.
Spain had several chances to extend their lead – Earps blocked shots from Ona Batlle, Caldentey and Alba Redondo in each half – while Salma Paralluelo’s first-time strike brushed the post on the stroke of half time.
It was a deserved victory for Spain but it will feel like a missed opportunity for the Lionesses, who have found a way to win so often under Wiegman but could not find the answers in the biggest game in their history.
Prior to this year’s competition, Spain had only ever won one Women’s World Cup match.
They had suffered defeat at the hands of England in the Euro 2022 quarter-finals but unlike that evening in Brighton when the Lionesses came from behind to win 2-1, Spain stuck to their task and saw out victory.
The streets of Sydney, which had been draped in green and gold for most of the competition, were transformed on Sunday to represent Spain and England’s colours.
England fans came dressed in costumes, banging drums and chanting on the city’s trains en route to the stadium and though they dominated numbers in the crowd, it was Spain’s supporters celebrating at full-time.
Bronze, 31, was in tears lying on the pitch at full-time and had to watch on as many of her Barcelona team-mates danced for the cameras while they prepared the stage for the trophy celebration.
She has won almost everything in the game but still cannot get her hands on the most desired trophy of them all.
Meanwhile, Spain’s achievement is a remarkable one given manager Jorge Vilda survived a player revolt less than 12 months ago and because of it they were missing Sandra Panos, Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro and Claudia Pina, who all helped Barcelona win the Champions League in June.
Their victory could transform women’s football in Spain, which has been thrust into the limelight in recent years following Barcelona’s domestic success.