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regular-article-logo Monday, 22 April 2024

FIFA Women’s World Cup final: Clash of styles as England, Spain eye summit

“I think it’s going to be a brilliant game, says captain Millie Bright

Reuters Sydney Published 20.08.23, 08:13 AM
England captain Millie Bright.

England captain Millie Bright. Twitter

Women's football will crown a first-time champion on Sunday when the ninth Women's World Cup concludes with England and Spain, both proud footballing nations, facing off in an intriguing final in Sydney.

The highly-successful tournament in Australia and New Zealand was destined to have a fresh winner from the quarter-finals when Japan joined the United States, Germany and Norway in making a premature exit.

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For all the excitement that accompanied Australia's run to the semi-finals and Japan's brilliance in the early rounds, the consensus is that England and Spain are worthy first-time finalists.

"I think it's going to be a brilliant game," England captain Millie Bright enthused on Saturday.

The tournament has showcased the development of the women's game but the finalists do present a contrast in styles — England pragmatic, ruthless, resilient and Spain displaying all the technical skill the country's football is famed for.

Midfield maestro Aitana Bonmati and the fresh young talent of winger Salma Paralluelo have shone brightly for Spain, while Lauren James, before her two-match ban for a red card, and Lauren Hemp have been among England's standouts.

The finalists have had their blips — Spain were thrashed 4-0 by Japan in their last group game and England taken to penalties by Nigeria in the last 16 — but both have grown into the tournament and were convincing semi-final winners.

Expectations of a tight final in front of another sellout crowd of 75,000 at Stadium Australia might not be too wide of the mark if England's 2-1 win in the European Championship quarter-final between the sides last year is any guide.

England needed an extra time goal to beat Spain last year. Although they have had their share of injury setbacks this year, they have maintained the self-belief the Euros triumph and their calm Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman have imbued in them.

"We are ready," Wiegman said on Saturday. "Technically, tactically."

Spain coach Jorge Vilda is not stepping back either. "What we want to do tomorrow is to be the best in the world," he said on Saturday. "And we'll do this by winning the final."

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