Spain vs England preview
When the final whistle blows on August 20 at Stadium Australia, the world will see a new first-time FIFA Women’s World champion. After an intense 28 days and 62 games, England and Spain have reached the final. It is the first time that these teams have reached this stage.
The tournament has been full of surprises as favourites the United States, Germany, Sweden and hosts Australia all fell before the final hurdle. All of these teams, on paper, looked superior to the finalists, but they lacked one thing; grabbing the opportunity at the right time.
Make no mistakes, England and Spain played far from perfect football in this tournament in more than one game. However, even then they displayed tenacity and grit which got them over the line which justifies the old saying in football, ‘Big teams have to win ugly even when they do not play well’.
England’s journey saw them start their campaign with two scrappy wins over Haiti and Denmark. However, the Three Lionesses came to form in the last game thrashing China 6-1. The two scrappy wins proved very beneficial as they finished top of the group.
Their next challenge was a Nigeria side that was undefeated and had shown that at their best, it was near impossible to penetrate their defence for any team in the world. And England faced the brunt of The Super Falcons. Their performances mirrored that of their scrappy wins over Haiti and Denmark. In addition, their young star Lauren James was also sent off in the 87th minute. However, the team kept their opponents at bay for the entirety of extra time before winning on penalties.
Since then, they have rediscovered their mojo to beat Colombia (2-1) and Sweded (3-1) to reach their first final.
On the other hand, Spain started their campaign in style, scoring eight goals without reply in their first two games, beating Costa Rica (3-0) and Zambia (5-0). Their third game would bring their spirits crashing down as a well-drilled Japan unit put them to the sword and put four goals past them.
The result also meant that Spain finished second in the group and were handed a tough clash against Group A toppers Switzerland. La Roja, though, took the challenge head-on and put up their best performance of the tournament. Spain scored four goals in the first half alone, which deflated the hope of Switzerland as they were decimated 5-1 on the night.
The quarter-finals, though, would test them to the fullest. Despite dominating the game, it took Spain a penalty to open the scoring in the 81st minute. However, the Dutch came back as Stefanie van der Gragt equalised in the first minutes of the injury time.
With a semi-final spot at stake, manager Jorge Vilda sent the 19-year-old prodigy Salma Paralluelo who bamboozled the Dutch defence, to score a stunning goal and help her team win the game.
Paralluelo would again score in the semi-final as Sapin beat Sweden 2-1 in a game where all goals were scored in the final ten minutes.
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Spain vs England lineups
With the way Spain are playing, Jorge Vilda has little reason to tinker with his squad, who have performed admirably in all sorts of situations. However, there are still some selection dilemmas for the manager. The first is who among the trio of Olga Carmona, Ona Batlle, and Oihane Hernandez will start in the two full-backs spot. Camona started the semi-final ahead of Hernandez, scored the winning goal, and is likely to get the nod along with Batlle. Elsewhere in the midfield, Alexia Putellas is likely to start ahead of Jennifer Hermoso, who will move to the attack.
She will pair with the Alba Redondo and Mariona Caldentey duo with Esther Gonzalez and Paralluelo to make an appearance off the bench.
Spain predicted lineup: Coll; Camona, Codina, Paredes, Batlle; Putellas, Abelleira, Bonmatí; Caldentey, Jenni, Redondo
England do have a steeled squad, but there is one spot that will be in contention. After her red card, James was handed a two-match suspension by FIFA. This meant that the attacker was not available for both the quarter-finals and semi-finals. However, the team dealt with her absence well, with Manchester United’s Ella Toone putting in a commendable performance in both games.
However, James’ return puts manager Sarina Wiegman in a spot of bother on who of the two attackers to start in the final. The best-case scenario would be to start Toone and send in James later in the match. This means that England might field the same starting lineup as that of the semi-finals.
England predicted lineup: Earps; Greenwood, Bright, Carter; Daly, Walsh, Stanway, Bronze; Toone; Hemp Russio
Spain vs England predictions
Both Spain and England have battled all sorts of situations to reach their first-ever final and now stand just one step away from etching their name in the golden pages of football’s history. Both teams are also loaded with star players who, on their day, can turn a match around on their own.
However, the pressure of a final is one where even the best can falter, and most of the time, teams play a cautious approach to ensure they don’t fall behind, which could be the case for the final.
On paper, both teams look equal, but England have the experience of winning silverware in recent history as they won the Euros, which could play an essential part.
FootTheBall predicts a 2-1 win for England.