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Spain wins its first Women's World Cup title

Less than a year following a player rebellion, Spain secured their inaugural Women's World Cup championship by edging out England 1-0 on Sunday, thanks to Olga Carmona's first-half goal. This triumph marked Spain's first major international title and established them as the inaugural European squad to seize the Women's World Cup since Germany's victory in 2007. As the final whistle blew, the Spanish players huddled before their goal in jubilant celebration. Carmona's left-footed strike in the 29th minute found the far corner of the net, narrowly eluding England's diving goalkeeper Mary Earps. In a show of exultation, Carmona lifted her jersey, revealing the inscription "Merchi" written in ink on her undershirt—a gesture that appeared to be a tribute to her former school. Carmona's decisive goal in the 89th minute of Spain's 2-1 semifinal win over Sweden placed her in an elite category, making her the first player since Carli Lloyd in 2015 to score in both a World Cup semifinal and final. Spain had a chance to double their lead in the 68th minute, but Jenni Hermoso's penalty attempt was thwarted by a perfectly anticipated dive to the left by Earps. Spain's victory materialized in spite of a near-revolt by players the previous year. Fifteen players withdrew from the national team citing mental health concerns and advocating for a more professional environment. Three of those players—Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí, and Mariona Caldentey—reconciled with the federation and participated in the World Cup. England entered the tournament with momentum after securing the European Championship on home turf the previous summer. Nonetheless, injuries sidelined three of their key players—captain Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby, and Beth Mead—preventing their inclusion in the World Cup squad due to knee injuries. England coach Sarina Wiegman achieved the distinction of leading teams to consecutive World Cup final matches, having guided the Netherlands to the 2019 final where they fell 2-0 to the United States. Her record now stands at 0-2. England's path to the final included a 3-1 victory over host Australia in the semifinals. However, top scorer Lauren James missed two matches due to suspension for a prior incident involving Nigeria's Michelle Alozie in the knockout stage. Although available for the final, James began as a substitute, with Ella Toone getting the starting nod. James entered the match at the start of the second half. The game saw a momentary interruption in the 25th minute when an individual dashed onto the field but was swiftly apprehended by security. One of England's closest opportunities came in the 16th minute as Lauren Hemp's shot rebounded off the crossbar. Soon after, Salma Paralluelo made a goalward dash but couldn't deliver a clean shot, and Earps denied Alba Redondo's attempt in the ensuing scramble. Nineteen-year-old Paralluelo, who previously scored the decisive goal for Spain against Sweden and the extra-time winner against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, started under coach Jorge Vilda's direction. Paralluelo came tantalizingly close to scoring just before half-time, but her shot struck the post. In the 78th minute, she received a yellow card for a foul on Alex Greenwood, who had a cut above her eye. Hemp had another opportunity in the 54th minute but sent the shot wide, followed by a yellow card for a foul on Laia Codina just a minute later. Spain earned a chance to widen their lead in the 68th minute through a video review that granted a penalty following Keira Walsh's handball. Yet, Earps preserved England's hopes with a series of late saves. Coach Jorge Vilda faced the challenge of integrating two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, who was recovering from an ACL tear the previous year. Putellas started the final on the bench. Putellas entered the game with only 15 seconds left in regulation, and due to stoppage time, the match extended for an additional 13 minutes. The final at Stadium Australia drew a crowd of 75,784 spectators, among them tennis legend Billie Jean King. The two teams had previously clashed in the quarterfinals of the Euros the previous year, with England rallying from behind to defeat Spain 2-1 in extra time on the strength of Georgia Stanway's goal.

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