European champions England have the opportunity to create history for the second time in just over a year when they take on Spain in the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney on Sunday.
The Lionesses will look to claim the title for the first time, as well as become the first England team since 1966 to win a senior final on the world stage.
Standing in their way is a Spain side also playing in their maiden final, with some 75,000 fans expected at Stadium Australia (11:00 BST kick-off).
Millions more will watch the match live on BBC One, with build-up from Australia starting at 09:45.
The winners will become the fifth different nation to be crowned world champions in the ninth edition of the tournament.
The United States (four times), Germany (two times), Norway and Japan are the only other winners.
“Everyone’s talking about 1966, so let’s be at our best on Sunday and try and be successful,” said England manager Sarina Wiegman.
“Making a final is special but with this team and the challenges we had, how we find a way all the time to solve problems has been amazing – [it’s] very special being in a final but now we want to win it too.”
The Lionesses, who will be wearing their blue kit, are going for world glory 13 months after defeating Germany at Wembley to win the European Championship for the first time.
Will Lionesses clear final hurdle?
While England’s path to the Euro 2022 crown was fairly serene, their journey to the World Cup final has been anything but.
They lost three stars of that triumph to knee injuries prior to this tournament – Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby – while they have also been tested in Australia, losing key players Keira Walsh and Lauren James to injury and suspension respectively and coming through a penalty shootout against Nigeria.
But Wiegman’s side have been calm under pressure and they have been behind for just seven minutes – against Colombia in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Walsh only missed one game after her injury was not as bad as first feared and James is available for the final after serving her two-match ban for stamping on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie.
Wiegman will have to decide whether to stick with the line-up which performed so impressively in the 3-1 semi-final win over Australia, or bring back James, who was England’s best player at the tournament before her red card.
Captain Millie Bright, who was given the armband for the World Cup after the injury to Williamson, said: “It’s a dream come true to be in the World Cup final. Leading the girls out is a special feeling.
“We have got a game plan that we have to go out and execute. Everyone knows how big this is. We know how passionate our nation is back home and how much they want us to win.”
La Roja put controversy to one side
Against a backdrop of unrest, disharmony, and a 4-0 defeat by Japan in the group stage, it is remarkable that Spain, who are ranked sixth in the world – two places below England – have managed to reach the final.
Reports of a rift between boss Jorge Vilda and his players have followed La Roja all the way in this tournament.
La Roja, appearing in just their third World Cup, have impressed since that heavy defeat by Japan, knocking out Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Centre-back Irene Paredes said: “Spain has always been a football loving country but it was not our space, or at least that’s how they made us feel.
“We want to play football and [those who came before us] pushed so they invested more in women’s football. We have the opportunity to play in a final of a World Cup. It is the time to enjoy it.”
The majority of their squad is made up of players from Champions League winners Barcelona, including 2021 and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.
However it is 19-year-old forward Salma Paralluelo who has stolen the headlines, following up her winning goal in the quarter-final against the Netherlands by scoring against Sweden in the semi-finals, both times after coming on a substitute.
Battle of the bosses – Wiegman v Vilda
While England boss Wiegman has rightly won widespread plaudits for uniting her squad and taking them to the next level, Spain head coach Vilda has been surrounded by controversy since a player revolt last September.
The Dutchwoman has reached a fourth major tournament final in a row, having won back-to-back Euros with the Netherlands and England, either side of a World Cup final defeat with her native country at the 2019 World Cup.
The only defeat of Wiegman’s 38-game reign with the Lionesses so far came in a friendly against Australia at Brentford in April – and she has won 18 out of 19 matches at major tournaments as a manager.
Vilda, meanwhile, has been involved in a feud with 15 of his players amid reports of concern over training methods and inadequate game preparation.
A stand-off ensued and only three of those players were included in his World Cup squad, meaning some world-class talent such as Champions League winners Patri Guijarro, Mapi Leon and Claudia Pina were left at home.