Spain won the Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history with skipper Olga Carmona sweeping in the only goal for a deserved 1-0 victory over England in Sunday’s final.
In front of a crowd of nearly 76,000 at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Spain were the more accomplished side and had more chances, including missing a second-half penalty.
Spain’s triumph is vindication for Jorge Vilda and the Spanish football federation, who stuck with the coach even after 15 players last year said they no longer wanted to represent their country under him.
England coach Sarina Wiegman, who has now suffered back-to-back defeats in the final, and her European champions can have few complaints.
Spain are the fifth team to lift the World Cup since the tournament began in 1991, joining outgoing champions the United States, Germany, Norway and Japan.
In front of Spain’s Queen Letizia, defender Carmona scored what turned out to be the winner, rampaging from left-back to thrash the ball in low and hard on 29 minutes.
Wiegman had resisted the temptation to recall Chelsea attacker Lauren James after her two-match ban and kept faith with the team that beat co-hosts Australia 3-1 in the semi-finals.
Playing in their blue second kit, England had the first sniff of a chance in the fifth minute but Lauren Hemp shot weakly at goalkeeper Cata Coll.
–Dejected England players after the match
There was little to choose between them in the opening exchanges before both teams had golden opportunities on the quarter-hour mark.
First, Manchester City forward Hemp struck the bar with a curler that had Coll well beaten.
Spain went up the other end and should have scored but Salma Paralluelo — in for Alexia Putellas — missed the ball in the six-yard box.
Then Alba Redondo hit a first-time strike straight at goalkeeper Mary Earps with the England goal gaping.
Mariona Caldentey slid in an inch-perfect pass for Carmona, who came flying unmarked down the left before lashing the ball into the bottom corner.
Vilda, who recalled three of the 15 mutineers for the World Cup, did not even raise a smile on the sidelines.
England looked uncharacteristically rattled and the 19-year-old Barcelona attacker Paralluelo, who was a constant threat, shaved the post with the last kick of the half.
Hermoso fails from spot
Wiegman, who suffered agony in the final four years ago when her Netherlands team lost 2-0 to the United States, made a double change at the break.
James and Chloe Kelly replaced Rachel Daly and Alessia Russo as Wiegman switched from a back-five to a flat back-four.
But it was Spain who nearly doubled their lead almost straight after half-time, Caldentey dinking inside and forcing Earps to turn the ball around the post.
Hemp was booked for clipping Laia Codina as England’s frustration mounted.
Midfield schemer Aitana Bonmati, who has been one of the players of the tournament and was one of the three refuseniks recalled by Vilda, fired narrowly over Earps’s bar.
With 20 minutes left, Spain were awarded a penalty when VAR was called into action and, after a long review, Keira Walsh was judged to have handled the ball in the box.
Jennifer Hermoso stepped up but her penalty was weak and Earps saved comfortably to keep England just about alive.
Officials indicated 13 minutes of injury time at the end, but if anything, it was Spain who looked the more likely to score as England’s dreams of a first World Cup melted away.