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  • Ollie Jones

2023 Women's World Cup - Final Preview

Updated: Aug 19

Ollie Jones - 19/8/23

2023 Women's World Cup final preview

The women's game has rightly enjoyed an exponential growth in the past few years, with it's potential first realised in the 2022 Women's Euros, where over 87,000 people descended on Wembley to witness the Lionesses reign victorious over Gernmany, in a record-breaking fixture. This growth hasn't stopped, accumulating into the incredible spectacle that has been the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. After a spectacular tournament, we preview the mouth-watering match-up between England's Lionesses and Spain's La Roja.

England's Tournament so far:

The Lionesses' came into this tournament as European champions, after last summer's amazing 2-1 win over Germany. Therefore if you'd told England fans this time last year that many weren't tipping them for a successful tournament, it would've likely come as a surprise. However scepticism over the Lionessess' chances arose off the back of England entering an injury stricken squad. The 2022 Euros 'Player of the Tournament' Beth Mead and captain Leah Williamson both missed out with ACL injuries. Combined with the loss of key characters in the dressing room like Jill Scott and Ellen White to retirement, left many England fans pessimistic.

However, Sarina Weigman has once again worked her magic, leading her youthful squad to their fifth successive final, including the Euros, Finalissima, 2 Arnold Cups and now the World Cup, winning the previous 4. England have won every game in the tournament so far. The Lionesses made light work of their group, seeing off Haiti, Denmark and China, before progressing into a difficult knockout stage. Despite not being at their best, they progressed against a resilient Nigeria side and then improved to beat one of the teams of the tournament in Colombia. But their most impressive showing was beating the co-hosts Australia 3-1, to reach the final. If the Lionesses can repeat this fantastic form, they should be favourites to be World Champions in 2023.

Spain's Tournament so far:

It would be hard to talk about La Roja's tournament without mentioning the controversy surrounding manager Jorge Vilda and the mass boycott of the national team. After Spain's exit from the Euros last year, a group of 15 Spanish players called for Jorge's sacking, on the grounds that he had damaged their "health" and "emotional state". He reportedly made players keep their doors open on international duty to check on them and made all players report to him when wanting to go out. Despite the players' best efforts, the Spanish FA sided with Vilda, refusing to sack him. Although 3 players part of the original boycott are part of the World Cup squad, many aren't, with no route back into the team while Vilda's incharge.

Despite the adversity the players have faced, they have played fantastically well, beating well-oiled and established sides like Sweden and the Netherlands to reach the final. Spain's offensive output has been the best in the tournament, as they top the goalscoring table with 17 goals! They cruised through their group, running riot, winning 3-0, 5-0 and 4-0, before taking apart Switzerland in the R16 5-1. The elimination of the USA at the hands of Sweden made Spain's 2-1 win over them even more impressive, making them an impressive outfit that'll give us a great final.

England's Key Player:

It is impossible to pin England's success on one player, as the impressive squad depth means there's been many players that have showed up in big moments to grab the headlines. The goals of Russo, Toone, Kelly, James and Hemp make them strong candidates to be the Lionesses' heroine come Sunday, however the importance of Walsh, Bronze, Bright and Earps cannot be understated and it would not be a surprise to see Mary Earps make another phenomenal save to win England the game. However if I had to pick one player that could win the game for England on Sunday, it'd be Alessia Russo. England's number 23 has shown up in key moments for England, not only scoring in the past two knockout games, with near identical goals to send England through, but also in this same fixture in the Euros, she produced a world-class back heel to send England through. Russo has proved she's a player for the big moments and I believe she will produce another one of those moments in Sydney.

Spain's Key Player:

Spain have a star in their ranks, and although it would be easy to believe I am talking about the world-class Alexia Putellas, the first person to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin and UEFA Women's Player of the Year two years in a row, with countless domestic titles and Champions Leagues to her name, but I actually mean Aitana Bonmati. Spain's star of the tournament Bonmati, is the equal the top goalscorer with 3, as well as their top assister with 2. Her attacking threat from midfield is there for all to see, as she has had the most attempts on goal, with 18. I believe she'll prove to be a handful for England's midfield and defence on Sunday, and if anyone will prove to be a match-winner, it will likely be her, keep an eye out for Spain's number 6.

Team News:

England: All the players who were available against Australia are available once again but with the addition of Lauren James, who returns from suspension, it is yet to be seen whether she'll make an immediate return to the staring XI or will have to settle for a place on the bench, after her heroics in the earlier stages of the tournament.

Spain: For Spain, Alba Redondo and Salma Paralluelo look set to return from injury and into contention, as well as Hernandez who returns from suspension and possibly back into the starting line-up, as she has been a key player in Spain's tournament

Score Prediction:

It will likely be another close affair between these two nations, and will provide drama no matter what. I believe it'll be closely contested and only 1 or 2 goals will be needed to snatch the win. I however believe England will come out on top, with a 2-0 win. I believe England will take a 1-0 lead that they will add to late in the match, as Spain push up the pitch in search of an equaliser, which will expose gaps at the back that England will penetrate, like they did against Australia and Colombia, when the opposition pushed for a goal, and will seal the win late on. Although it may be considered naive to not predict Spain to score, I believe Earps' fine form will be a match to the Spanish offence. Although, a penalty shoot-out to be crown the World Champions is not outside the realms of possibility. This match will be one for the ages...

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