For Lionesses fans, it didn’t come home. There was just one goal in it, but in the end, England lost out on a World Cup win to Spain’s La Roja.
It’s heartbreak for the Lionesses who played brilliantly throughout the tournament – but they made history in getting to a World Cup final, as Spain and England faced off at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Sunday (20 August).
While the Lionesses fought to the end, playing a better game in the second half, Spain beat the odds after tensions between teammates on and off the pitch, to become FIFA Women’s World Cup champions.
Spain player celebrate after the team’s victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia on August 20, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
England captain Millie Bright told the BBC: “We gave everything … we just didn’t have that final edge.”
Mary Earps, England’s iconic goalkeeper, won the FIFA Golden Glove Award for most clean sheets in the tournament, and Spain’s Aitana Bonmati won the FIFA Golden Ball Award for best player throughout the tournament.
FIFA Golden Ball Award winner Aitana Bonmati of Spain and FIFA Golden Glove Award winner Mary Earps pose at the award ceremony following the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final match between Spain and England. (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
It was a tense, exciting game with its fair share of injuries, penalties, yellow cards, protests and enough near misses to keep viewers’ anxiety levels high.
Manager Sarina Wiegman opted to stick with Ella Toone while Lauren James was returned to the bench after her suspension.
The first half saw a pitch invasion from a protester, but the first 45 minutes were dominated by Spain’s captain Olga Carmona scoring a goal after England right-midfielder Lucy Bronze lost the ball in the centre circle and Spain immediately took their chance.
There were a few harsh decisions made against England by the ref, and the first half ended with Spain one up.
The pace continued in the second half, with Spain’s Jenni Hermoso being awarded a penalty after a handball, but Earps kept England’s hopes alive with a spectacular save.
Mary Earps of England looks dejected after her team was defeated in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia on August 20 2023. (Maja Hitij – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
It was the slightest brush against Keira Walsh’s fingers, but referee Tori Penso deliberated over the replay and awarded the penalty.
The crowd erupted into a cheer so loud you’d have thought someone had scored. And although the score remained to 1-0 to Spain, Earps’ save put energy back into the Lionesses who started attacking La Roja with vigour.
It looked like the Lionesses could turn things around, and then Alex Greenwood was taken out by Salma Paralluelo’s tricep hitting the side of the face.
As medics bandaged up the cut above her eyebrow, the stoppage time mounted up.
Alex Greenwood of England (C) lies injured during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia on August 20, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Ane Frosaker/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Spain were relentless – and it looked like they would bag another goal – but Earps did a fantastic job of blocking each one.
England didn’t let up either, but while they did everything they could in the 13 minutes of extra time, which ended with a corner to England, they failed to equalise.
The two teams had faced off before, in last year’s Euros, which England won 2-1.