FIFA Women's World Cup Final preview
🇪🇸 Spain: Painted in roja
How they got here: A whole lot of resilience. Although La Roja’s WWC journey has been marred by their very bad relationship with head coach (HC) Jorge Vilda (more on that below), the players have continued to impress on the pitch.
- Outside of losing 4–0 to No. 11 Japan in the group stage, Spain has been dominant, advancing through the knockouts behind not one, but two late game-winners. Ice in their veins.
Players to watch: Keep your eyes on Spain’s 19-year-old breakout star Salma Paralluelo, who scored La Roja’s quarter-final game-winner, and who also found the back of the net in their 2–1 semi win over Sweden.
- Elsewhere, attacking midfielder Jenni Hermoso’s fancy footwork is a thing of beauty. Look for her to provide clutch play-building through the center of the pitch as she dances around the Brits.
Keys to success: Goals, possession, and when to use Alexia Putellas…in that order. No shade to Spain’s defense, but their offense must come through for La Roja to finish atop the podium. As the competition’s heated up, their goal production has decreased. And given England’s prolific strikers, Spain will need some offensive cushion.
- This squad is known for their crisp passes, and keeping the ball away from the Brits — who are known to strike in transition — is a must for this Spanish squad.
- Lastly, how to use one of the worlds best players, Alexia Putellas, is a crucial decision. After tearing her ACL in 2022, the back-to-back Ballon d’Or Féminin winner might be used as an energetic second-half substitute as opposed to starter.
🏴 England: Is football coming home (again)?
SOURCE: DANIELA PORCELLI/EURASIA SPORT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
How they got here: The Lionesses endured a rash of injuries to top players and some nail-biting matches to reach their first-ever WWC final. Their offense was relatively quiet throughout their undefeated group stage, and their Round of 16 penalty kick win against No. 40 Nigeria didn’t inspire confidence.
- But after coming back to defeat No. 25 Colombia in the quarters, the Brits synced up beautifully in their 3–1 semifinal win over co-host Australia.
Players to watch: Besides the aforementioned queen of the backheel Russo, a pair of Laurens will be looking to roar on England’s attacking line. Lauren Hemp notably provided England’s quarter-final equalizer as well as their semis game-winner.
- Forward Lauren James’ red card suspension is finally up, and she’ll be hungry to make up for two matches spent on the bench. But the question is, should England start her when they’ve been in a solid rhythm these last two games?
Keys to success: The Lionesses need to prove that defense wins championships. Anchored by veteran center back Millie Bright and bolstered by tough and talented midfielders, England’s ability to limit goals has been the name of their game — they’ve only conceded three times all month.
- That said, you can’t win a WWC without hearing that sweet sound of the ball skimming the back of the net, so when England has control, they’ll need to capitalize on every opportunity. Let the hunt begin.
💪 The matchup
These squads have met 11 times since 2007, with England holding the edge. The Lionesses won six of those matches compared to Spain’s three, and two ended in a draw.
- Most recently, the sides clashed in last year’s Euros quarter-finals, with eventual champs England netting the 2–1 dub. That said, La Roja was notably missing Putellas and Hermoso.
The X-factor in this matchup, however, may be in the pairs’ HCs. The aforementioned Vilda, who has helmed Spain since 2015, is notoriously controversial. Citing impacts to their physical and emotional health, 15 players resigned from La Roja in protest in 2022 (three returned for the WWC), and while this team is successful, it’s arguably in spite of him.
- The tension between the players and Vilda is still very apparent, with videos of athletes ignoring him during post-match celebrations going viral.
On the flip side, there’s England’s manager Sarina Wiegman, the only woman HC among the eight WWC quarter-finalists. Since becoming a HC in 2017, Wiegman’s led her squads — her native Netherlands and then England starting in 2021 — to four major titles.
- The Lionesses have only lost one game under the reigning three-time Best FIFA Women’s Coach, and that’s likely because of her leadership style: Wiegman focuses on the person, not just the athlete. All to say, she is her.
Yes, this final will be a showcase of Spain’s offense vs. England’s defense, but the route to the podium is likely behind respected leadership, giving an edge to the Brits. On the flip side, Spain is battle-tested on and off the pitch, and they’re not about to concede the war.
- Will the Lionesses roar loudest? Or will La Roja make the field run red? Can’t wait to find out.
📺 How to watch
SOURCE: SEBASTIAN CHRISTOPH GOLLNOW/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Put a kettle on or brew that coffee — the match kicks off tomorrow at 6 a.m. ET, but it’ll be well worth the wake-up call. Americans can catch all the action on Fox, while Canadians can tune in on TSN. Kick back and enjoy.