Despite all the courage and skills displayed by many of the smaller teams at the Fifa Women’s World Cup—such as Jamaica, Colombia, Nigeria and South Africa—it is the heavyweights that are set to light up the final. The contenders are pre-tournament favourites Spain, and reigning European champions England.
It will be a closely contested match, given Spain’s ability to move the ball around quickly. They will be tested by England’s quick adaptability. While Spain have struggled to create clear cut shots at goal all tournament, England have slowly found that sharp-shooter’s touch and are a threat if they are allowed to pull the trigger or manage to make runs behind the defenders.
First time finalists: Both Spain and England will be playing in their very first World Cup final. England fell in the semi-finals in both 2015 and 2019 while Spain only played their first World Cup in 2015, when they didn’t get past the group stages. In 2019, they were eliminated by eventual champions US in the Round of 16. These two European giants met in the Women’s Euro quarter-finals last year, with England winning 2-1 in extra time.
Road to the final: Spain got off the blocks with big wins against Zambia and Costa Rica, scoring eight goals in the process. Then they were stunned 4-0 by a high-precision Japanese team in their final group game. After that Spain has been consistent, with a 5-1 win against the Swiss in the Round of 16, and two 2-1 victories over the Netherlands in the quarter-final and the Swedes in the semis.
England started slowly, registering two 1-0 wins against Haiti and Denmark before hammering half a dozen against China in the final group game. They ran into a well organised and dangerous Nigeria in the Round of 16, which they won on penalties. They had to fight hard to come from behind to win 2-1 against Colombia in the quarter-final and beat hosts Australia 3-1 in the semis.
The coaches: Sarina Wiegman, the 53-year-old coach from the Netherlands, joined the Lionesses in 2021 after leading the Oranje to the Euro title in 2017 and the World Cup final in 2019. Now, she has repeated same feat with England, becoming the first coach in women’s football to lead two teams to World Cup finals. She is, perhaps, the most in-demand coach in women’s football at the moment.
In the opposite dugout will be Jorge Vilda, 42. Before the World Cup, nearly all of Spain’s first team walked out citing problems with the way coaches treated them. In this tussle, the federation backed Vilda, who has been at the helm since 2015. In the tournament, except in the game against Japan, Vilda has been solid and unafraid to take big calls like dropping two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas to the bench.
Best represented club in the final: Barcelona will be the best represented club on the pitch on Sunday. England’s two stars, Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze, won the Champions League with Barcelona this year. The Spanish team is loaded with Barcelona stars from front to back: Salma Paralluelo leads the line and Catalina Coll protects the goal. In between, central defenders Irene Paredes and Laia Codina, wingback Ona Battle, midfielders Alexia Putellas, Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmati and Maria Perez are all from the Catalonian club.
The tale of two goalies: While the focus is usually on the goal scorers, this game is going to boil down to which goalie keeps the ball out of the net. Spain’s Catalina Coll, 22, didn’t start the group games, and was given her international debut in the first knockout game against Switzerland. She has been good whenever called into action, but hasn’t faced penalties yet.
Mary Earps, England’s 30-year-old Manchester United goalkeeper, almost quit football after not making it to the 2019 World Cup squad. She got a break at the Euros last year under Wiegman, and has been so impressive that she was named the goalkeeper of the year by Fifa in 2022. She has valuable big game experience and has been involved in a shootout too.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.