Spain versus England, La Roja taking on the Lionesses; two behemoths of football meeting at the pinnacle of the Women’s World Cup final.
32 teams staked their claim Down Under over 63 matches, serving this colossus duo as the decider of the Australian and New Zealand tournament.
There have been shocks galore and unexpected heroes throughout, but in case you haven’t quite been keeping up to date with all of the action here’s a beginners guide to Sunday’s ultimate clash.
The #FIFAWWC Final is set! 🇪🇸🆚🏴
Who will take home the trophy?
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) August 16, 2023
— England (@England) August 17, 2023
What time is kick off?
The women’s World Cup final kicks off at 8pm local time in Stadium Australia, Sydney on Sunday, August 20th, equating to 11am Irish time on the same date.
Where to watch it?
RTE 2 will have build up to the fixture starting at 10am, with coverage running all the way through to 2pm.
Alternatively the game will be available to watch on channels such as ITV and the BBC, although some TV set ups will require a few steps in order to access those avenues.
Given this is a rare occasion they aren’t in it themselves, an American referee named Tori Penso will be the one to take charge of this year’s women’s World Cup final.
She’ll become the first woman from the States to do so and will be accompanied by fellow countrywomen Brooke Mayo and Kathryn Nesbitt on the field.
Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita will act as the fourth official, while Nicaragua Tatiana Guzman will be over VAR for Sunday’s match.
Spain were on the Team A of the draw and so will don their home kit for the match up, while England as Team B will wear their blue away strip.
— Rich Laverty (@RichJLaverty) August 18, 2023
A tactical and style comparison
🆚 Most accurate passes in Australia vs England:
🥇 Alex Greenwood / Millie Bright - 47
🥈 Jess Carter - 32
🥉 Keira Walsh - 31
🎯 England have made 163 more accurate passes (261) than Australia (98) in the first half #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/so90GIUEVK
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 16, 2023
Sarina Wiegman’s team have triumphed over adversity so far in this tournament, performing without some of their top stars in Beth Mead, Leah Williamson and Fran Kirby who were all ruled out through injury before the tournament, and reacting well to the absence of Kiera Walsh and Lauren James during it.
This has meant she’s has been jolted to alter her team, and formation, on different occasions throughout, settling on a 3-4-1-2 with expansive fullbacks in recent showcases. Keeper Mary Earps is covered by their new found captain Millie Bright as well as Jess Carter and breakout star Alex Greenwood, with WSL player of the year Rachel Daly at left back and Barcelona Champions League winner Lucy Bronze on the right flank. Georgia Stanway and Walsh bolster the midfield, with former Manchester United teammates Ella Toone and Alessia Russo providing the attacking flare alongside the semi final player of the match Lauren Hemp up top.
This all makes for a fascinating match up in the when you dive into Spain’s usual set up, which sticks to their roots as they pride themselves on being a possession based outfit, although they may be forced to stray from that when up against this England team.
Under Jorge Vilda they usually employ a 4-3-3 system but look susceptible on the counter attack that was exposed by Japan in the group stages, and that’s a weak point which they will no doubt be looking to limit in this Women’s World Cup Final.
They also have some unrest in the camp and have varied their player selection over the course of the tournament, and although their strongest steadfast XI remains unknown, these are those who are expected to feature.
Barcelona’s Cata Coll will play in net for La Roja, with her teammates Irene Paredes and Laia Codina covering her at centre back in tandem with fullbacks Ona Batlle (formerly Manchester United, now Barcelona) and Olga Carmona (Real Madrid). Their real star power comes in Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, who’s coming back from an ACL injury that ruled her out of the Euros, and is propelled on by Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmatí and Mariona Caldentay, Real Madrid’s Teresa Abelleira, veteran Jennifer Hermoso and Levante UD's Alba María Redondo, with youngster Salma Paralluelo making an impact off the bench.
19-year-old Salma Paralluelo came on as a sub and scored the extra-time winner against the Netherlands to send Spain to the semifinals.
Today, she came on as a sub and scored to help send Spain to their first-ever Women's World Cup Final.
Ice in her veins 🥶 pic.twitter.com/WwseQauKSZ
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 15, 2023
💰Players at the 2023 Women’s World Cup will be paid 25c to the $1 their male counterparts received last year
💰The prize money has increased 2,000% since female players were first paid in 2006
More here: https://t.co/zDbTRo6VNK pic.twitter.com/gNMfkKTsbT
— The Outlier (@outlierafrica) August 18, 2023
The overall pool of prize money for all 32 teams who qualified rests at $110million, a substantial increase from the $30m on offer at the 2019 tournament but still a far cry from the $440 million presented at the men’s competition.
The federations of each of the teams will receive $3.02m regardless, with the winners topping off their champion run with $4.29m.
Personally then, each of the players who make the Women’s World Cup final pick up $195,000 or $270,000 should they come out victorious.
Underinvested vs over-invested market
Women’s World Cup Prize Money
-Third place: $180,000
-Second place: $195,000
-Winners: $270,000 (each)
Men’s World Cup 2022 Prize Money:
-Third place: $27m
-Runners up: $30m
-Winners: $42m (each)
— Jana Hlistova (@Janicka) August 13, 2023
A historic Women’s World Cup Final, no matter the result
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) August 15, 2023
This is a first Women’s World Cup final in history for both sides, and whoever eventually lifts the trophy will be the first new team to do so since Japan in 2011 seeing as the holders USA were knocked out before reaching the semi finals.
England remain unbeaten so far and have conceded less goals than Spain, although on the road to this point La Roja have tucked away more goals than anyone else and look to be hitting their stride.
On the path here England topped Group D, containing Denmark, Haiti and China before overcoming a tough Nigeria side, a plucky Colombia team and one of the hosts Australia on their way to the final, arguably facing a tougher test in their journey than Sunday’s opponents.
Spain on the other hand emerged second in Group C, losing 4-0 to Japan and beating Costa Rica and Zambia. They did however triumph over Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden since then, and will be hoping they’ve found their groove at the opportune time.
The pair have met 11 times since 2007, with England prevailing in their latest meeting at Euro 2022. There they secured a 2-1 win in extra time in the quarter final, where they went on to clinch the overall prize at the tournament.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 16, 2023
The managers: Wiegman vs Vilda
We’re in for an exciting final between England and Spain, although for me this final is slightly overshadowed by the absence of some of the best players in the world.
— Vivianne Miedema (@VivianneMiedema) August 17, 2023
Neutrals are somewhat conflicted on social media as to who to bestow their backing upon for this women’s World Cup final, with the usual England vs the world rhetoric not as prevalent on this occasion due to the managerial situation at Spain.
Jorge Vilda has proved a divisive leader and a questionable man manager during his reign, with 15 of the La Roja players not even present at the competition in protest of his actions and position at the federation.
Contrastingly, Wiegman is adored by the Lionesses and their fans. She even appears to have been approached by the USA to take up their now vacant head coach position after Vlatko Andonovski stepped down this week, but the FA have remained firm in their take that she will persist in her role, which is no surprise when you examine her record.
Tactical nous may be essential in Sunday’s final battle but if a united group dynamic were to give anyone the edge, there seems to be only one possible winner.
Emma Hayes full of praise for the job Sarina Wiegman has been doing as England manager 😍pic.twitter.com/COmbt0pcJR
— Sky Sports WSL (@SkySportsWSL) August 18, 2023
The selection headaches
Alexia Putellas was, apparently, not happy to be subbed off pic.twitter.com/Z2f000uEok
— (Stephanie) (@statsandedits) August 15, 2023
Much debate has spanned tournament as to Spain’s best starting team, and that only perseveres for this women’s World Cup Final.
Seeing as tension remains high between Vilda and superstar Putellas it wouldn’t be an otherworldly surprise if she were to be dropped to the bench, with breakout performer Paralluelo itching to play in her stead.
Similarly England face a selection debacle with James returning from her suspension. Toone originally came in in her place, and has been outstanding in doing so, scoring at every stage in the knockout phase and cementing herself as a vital cog in the machine.
Wiegman also isn't one to change from her starting side when she isn't forced to do so, but with that said, James was also superb for the Lionesses earlier in the tournament, so it will be captivating to see who she starts in what will be her fourth successive major international tournament final.
Lauren James or Ella Toone to start in the World Cup final? 🤔🏴 pic.twitter.com/eqdDkq63qh
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 17, 2023
It’s the European champions to lose given the uncertainty and controversy that surrounds the Spain camp, and with their forwards it top form even with Lauren James yet to come back, it’s hard to see them being beaten.