An 89th-minute goal from Olga Carmona secured a close-fought 2-1 win for Spain over Sweden in the Women’s World Cup semifinal, making history as Spain advanced to its first-ever championship final. This success story unfolds in the wake of last year’s controversy involving a player revolt against coach Jorge Vilda.
Tension within the Spanish team hit a boiling point in September when 15 players protested against the coach and the conditions they were playing under. However, Vilda commended the Spanish federation a day before the match against Sweden for their strong support during the player unrest. Three players that signed the protest letter would go on to contribute to Spain's World Cup dream.
“This is a historic day,” exclaimed a jubilant Vilda at the end of the game, expressing gratitude yet again to the federation. "The end result is a learning process which has made us all stronger in my opinion, and to leave it archived in the past and think about the future".
The match featured an incredible turnaround, with Spain regaining the lead just 90 seconds after Sweden had equalized. Salma Paralluelo, the 19-year-old prodigy who clinched the winning goal in Spain’s 2-1 extra-time quarterfinals victory against the Netherlands, was the first to strike for Spain, sparking roars from the crowd. Their celebration however was short-lived, as Rebecka Blomqvist leveled the score for Sweden 88 minutes into the game.
Not willing to settle on a draw, Carmona responded with what turned out to be the match-winner, leaving Sweden's goalkeeper, Zecira Musovic, helpless. This topsy-turvy rollercoaster of emotions left Spanish defender Irene Paredes reflecting, “It was really, really crazy". She added, “We had confidence that we could create something else.”
Historically, Sweden’s semifinal record has been disappointing, losing in four of their five attempts. The country will now be vying for its fourth third-place finish.
Spain now sets its eye on the final showdown against either tournament co-host Australia or England, which are yet to play their semifinal match. They will be hoping to claim their first-ever world cup championship title.
Paralluelo's goal in the semifinals earmarks her as only the second teenager to score at this stage of the Women's World Cup, the first being Canada's Kara Lang in 2003. The teenage sensation reflects on her performance, “It's a magic moment. To be able to repeat is really incredible."
Sweden, still seeking its maiden world cup victory, has had a commendable run in prior tournaments, having been a runner-up in 2003 and securing third place thrice. However, this track record only enhances disappointment with the current outcome, with Kosovare Asllani expressing, "I’m tired of crying big tournament tears".
Despite being only its third World Cup, Spain’s team has shown great tenacity. They made it to the knockout round in their previous campaign but fell to eventual champions the United States. Energized by this advancement, they now gear up to face "the ultimate challenge" in the words of Paralluelo.