Spain beat England 1-0 in the Women's World Cup final; England have made history by reaching the final for the first time, with manager Sarina Wiegman praising how the side have overcome challenges; Spain captain Olga Carmona's first-half goal proved decisive in Sydney
Monday 21 August 2023 12:16, UK
England manager Sarina Wiegman has said her team must remain proud despite their disappointment after losing 1-0 to Spain in the Women's World Cup final.
Spain captain Olga Carmona produced a sublime strike to win the tournament, with La Roja winning the trophy for the first time.
Despite half-time substitutions of Chloe Kelly and Lauren James for Alessia Russo and Rachel Daly, and a superb penalty save from Mary Earps, England were unable to find a way back into the match.
"Everyone has seen an incredible game, a very open game, two teams who want to play football. A game of two halves for us," Wiegman told BBC Sport.
"The first half we struggled to press the ball. We changed it second half, back to 4-3-3, and I think we got some momentum then. But then the tempo went out of the game. We got momentum and then gave away the penalty. And the injury with Alex [Greenwood].
"After all, Spain were just a little bit better than we were today and they had a great tournament. Congrats for Spain.
"Of course it feels really bad now. We're very disappointed. What we have done, what we have shown, to play how we have as a team, overcoming so many challenges, we can be so proud of ourselves. Only it doesn't feel like that at the moment."
When asked in her post-match press conference about her half-time changes, Wiegman replied: "We started the game well with the shot on goal that hit the crossbar, but after that Spain got momentum, and we wanted to press high but they came out of the press all the time.
"Also with the fullbacks, they came up and we couldn't get press on that and we came in 1 vs 1 a lot of times in defence.
"When we had the ball we couldn't push up quick enough and we wanted to challenge them too, so we didn't keep the ball. So we thought we need to go back to 4-3-3.
"We wanted to keep Lauren Hemp in the centre also with her speed and she was very tight on the ball, and then have Lauren James and Chloe Kelly.
"Then we had to take out one of the defenders which was Rachel [Daly]. So those were the thoughts behind it and the second half we played better and we needed to wingers in defence but also in possession to get them on the ball."
It is the second successive World Cup final that Wiegman has lost. Her Netherland side were defeated by the USA in the 2019 final in France.
She added: "I'm just hurt about this moment. I don't see it in that way, this is a different game. You're convinced before the game that it will be a very tight game, that we were confident that we were able to win it.
"Every next moment we get I hope in the future, I get a new moment with the team I work with, that will be amazing because it's very special to play finals."
“Spain is this show. So good with their possession game, always players around the ball, very tight, very technical.
"What we tried to do is have a high press, but even when we had the high press, we were a little bit too expensive too and they came out of it.
"Also the positioning of the midfield gave us little challenges, so we had to drop a little deeper and be compact first because otherwise you can’t press the ball and then they can come up all the time.
"They were absolutely the team with the best possession game. We knew that ahead of the tournament, but they were even be better.
"They’ve had a very good tournament, to be really honest I think they deserve this."
Earps was England's most consistent player throughout the tournament, saving the Lionesses time and again with world-class saves.
She walked away with the World Cup Golden Glove alongside her silver medal - but said she would trade the personal accolade for the tournament trophy.
"I can't swear, but I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. Not [feeling] great," she told Sky Sports News.
"I don't think that [making people proud] really hits right now, to be honest. I think it will in a couple of weeks, I hope we can look back and reflect.
"I know getting to a World Cup final is an incredible achievement, but now, we're disappointed. We're competitors, we came here for the gold medal and we were so close. We just fell short.
"We've overcome a lot of adversity to be in this position. I'm really proud of the team for that and I think there's more levels to go as well.
"Of course I'm proud of that achievement [the Golden Glove], it's hard to achieve. But I would trade that for a gold medal any day. Just gutted that we fell short."
Georgia Stanway once again started in every England game at a major tournament and says that while she is disappointed, she is proud to wear the Lionesses shirt.
She told Sky Sports News: "We're absolutely gutted. Spain were very good, especially in that first half, that's where they dominated us. But we can be proud of the performance in the second half, we can be proud of the last seven days in total. I hope everyone at home realises how hard it is to get to a World Cup final.
"To pick up silver is still a proud moment... I'm proud to be English, to wear the badge and when the dust settles, it'll be an even better feeling. But to be so close and miss out, it's really difficult, but that's football.
"But we've been through situations, we'll power through them, we'll knock down barriers, we'll be there to make people proud and continue to push."
England captain Millie Bright was also emotional after the defeat, telling BBC Sport: "It's really hard to take. We gave everything, hand on heart.
"First half we weren't at our best. We showed our fight, showed our character. We had chances today, we hit the bar, and obviously they put their chance in the back of the net.
"There was a lot of belief. We've been 1-0 down in games before, we've bounced back, we never give in. It's hard to take, but it's football - we're heartbroken.
"The girls are unbelievable. We had a lot of critics at the start of this tournament, a few stopped believing, but we never stopped believing in ourselves. Even today we had full belief. We've made it to a World Cup final, in a few weeks we'll look back and really appreciate this day."
Aitana Bonmati has been crucial to Spain's success and was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at this Women's World Cup.
"I'm so proud because we did a great tournament. We go for it, but also we enjoyed it. We deserve it," she said.
The Barcelona midfielder was one of the 15 players who refused to compete under Spain head coach Jorge Vilda last September, but was allowed back in the squad for the World Cup.
"Everyone knew the goal at the beginning of the preparation of the tournament. Everyone is competitive, everyone is strong mentally to win. We have been working in a lot of years ago for this moment and we have the trophy," added Bonmati.
Former England and Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp reflected on the impact of England women's success.
"Winning the Euros and getting to the final of a World Cup is an incredible achievement. [They've] inspired so many people, girls, boys as well, everybody's looked at this. Their talent has been exceptional," said Redknapp.
"It's heartbreaking for them and they're going to be hurting so badly, but they should also be so proud of what they've achieved. The manager and the players, it's been an incredible achievement all around, and they'll get welcomed so kindly when they get back.
"It's so disappointing, as we were watching the game we were cheering, just hoping for one moment. We thought when the penalty was saved that was going to be it. It wasn't to be, but they've been incredible in this tournament," Redknapp added.
Bethany England came on as a late substitute in the World Cup final, and was visibly emotional when speaking to Sky Sports News.
However, the Tottenham forward hopes that the Lionesses' history-making appearance can continue to inspire young people back at home.
She said: "I just want to say thank you to everyone that's followed us, whether you've travelled out here or followed back at home, you've been with us every step of the way for every kick, every tackle, every penalty save that Mary makes.
"I want to say a massive thank you to everyone and we're sorry we couldn't get there in the end but I hope we've done you proud.
"I hope there's so many young girls out there that can see this and think that they can achieve that. I hope there's still more funding that gets pumped into that, make sure there's pathways and programmes, any resources possible to make sure that as a nation, we continue to strive forward.
"We made history getting here and that was for everyone past, present and future to come that we've shown we can do it. We just fell short at the last hurdle and hopefully, that chance comes around again and we get across the line next time."