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Spain 2-1 Sweden: Olga Carmona fires Spain into first Women's World Cup final with dramatic late victory

Match report as Salma Paralluelo's 81st-minute strike for Spain sparked a dramatic finale; Rebecka Blomqvist equalised for Sweden, but a curling effort from Spain captain Olga Carmona immediately after saw her side to victory; Spain will face Australia or England in Sunday's final

Spain's Olga Carmona reacts after scoring their winning goal
Image: Olga Carmona scored the winning goal for Spain in their semi-final against Sweden

A superb strike from Olga Carmona fired Spain into their first Women's World Cup final with a dramatic 2-1 win against Sweden in Auckland.

For 81 minutes, the game was a largely careful affair, with neither side giving away many huge chances as a spot in Sunday's showpiece final lay before them.

But a frantic final 15 minutes was sparked as 19-year-old substitute Salma Paralluelo (81) turned home. This was matched soon after as another substitute, Rebecka Blomqvist, curled in a fine effort with two minutes remaining to level for Sweden.

But Spain wasted no time in retaking the lead, doing so through captain Carmona. Having seen a couple of efforts wasted in the first half, she sent a stunning effort past Zecira Musovic from range, ultimately sending the team into their first major tournament final.

It is another heart-breaking near miss for Sweden. They were knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup and Euro 2022, as well as finishing as runners-up at the 2020 Olympics. They will now play in the third-place play-off on Saturday.

How Spain beat Sweden to reach final

Salma Paralluelo
Image: Salma Paralluelo scored the opening goal with Spain's first shot on target

Spain played the better football in the first half and had the better of the chances. In the 14th minute, Carmona fired just wide from range, having had a dangerous cross cleared just minutes before. Sweden offered their own reminder soon after, but Johanna Rytting Kaneryd made poor contact with the ball as it drifted wide.

Team news headlines

  • Spain made two changes. Alexia Putellas and Olga Carmona came into the XI with Esther Gonzalez and Oihane Hernandez - who was suspended.
  • Sweden named an unchanged side from their knockout games so far.

Magda Eriksson needed to be alert just after the half an hour as Alexia Putellas fired in a cross from the right flank. However, the Bayern Munich defender was there with a glancing header to see the danger away.

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But it was Sweden who had the first half's only shot on target. Rytting Kaneryd found Frida Rolfo at the back post, but her swatted effort was pushed away by Barcelona team-mate Catalina Coll.

Sweden's Fridolina Rolfo reacts after a missed shot on goal
Image: Sweden's Fridolina Rolfo went close with the only shot on target in the first half

The effort was a possible reason for Sweden's improved second half showing, but chances where still at a premium, with both goalkeepers alert to the danger. However, Spain should have gone ahead in the 70th minute.

Alba Redondo's initial effort looked to be going wide, but some brilliant play from Paralluelo saw her not only keep the ball in play, but found a seated Redondo inside the six-yard box. However, the Levante forward tapped her effort just wide.

Spain's Alba Redondo sends her shot just wide of the goal
Image: Spain's Alba Redondo sent a shot just wide of the target in the second half

But the drama was yet to come as impressive Paralluelo made the breakthrough. Mariona Caldentey's cross was poorly cleared by Jonna Andersson, finding the Barcelona youngster. She then made no mistake in slotting home, with a VAR check for offside also passed.

Sweden levelled seven minutes later. Lina Hurtig nodded a cross into Blomqvist's path, with the forward smashing an effort past Coll. It looked like extra-time was looming, but there was one last twist in the tale to come.

Olga Carmona is congratulated by her team-mate Teresa Abelleira after restoring Spain's lead against Sweden
Image: Olga Carmona celebrates her winning goal, which sent Spain into the Women's World Cup final

Spain immediately won a corner after the restart, with Teresa Abelleira's delivery picking out Carmona at the top of the area. The Spain captain then lofted a stunning effort past Musovic, who could only tip the strike onto the underside of the crossbar as it fell over the line.

Sweden pressed for another goal as seven minutes of injury time ticked by, but did little to truly worry Coll or Spain, who will now face Australia or England in Sunday's final in Sydney.

'Losing like this feels brutal'

"I'm so tired of crying championship tears," said Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani.

"I don't think people understand the energy and the passion that is behind this. It really sucks, we dreamed of a World Cup final.

"I'm so proud of this team, where we are today and how we have performed in this tournament. We deserved to be in the final, but that's how football is," added Asllani.

Magdalena Eriksson (Sweden) post game despair during a game
Image: Sweden were in shock after the 2-1 defeat

Defender Amanda Ilestedt acknowledged Spain's skilful performance: "They played very well. They had a lot of possession, we know they are good in that.

"Even though they had the ball a lot, especially in the first half, they didn't create that much on us. I think we came out a lot better in the second half."

"But losing like this and being so close to a final feels brutal right now."

Head coach Peter Gerhardssson said: "Everyone just feels sadness and huge disappointment.

"[It] was a game where we equalised and at 1-1 you feel this enormous joy and elation that maybe we can bring the game to extra-time. Then just over a minute later it's all change again and that can happen in a tournament."

"Tonight we can mourn, tonight we can be sad, disappointed, but from tomorrow, we look forward," Magdalena Eriksson said.

"We knew that we had two matches left in the tournament when we made the semi-final, now there's a third-place playoff and we still have a chance to win a medal, and we're going to go for it, 100 per cent."

'We kept our composure and found the winner'

"It was a magic moment once again," said Salma Paralluelo on her game-changing goal for Spain.

"We know on big occasions we have to be patient. We knew their counters is where Sweden could hurt us.

"The [Sweden] goal happened really quick. Something we could have maybe avoided. But we just had to accept what had happened, we were tied again and lift our heads up because we had to go get that second goal. That's what we did. We kept our composure and found that winning goal."

Spain's Eva Navarro, right, celebrates with a teammate after defeating Sweden in the Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga)
Image: Spain have made history by reaching their first Women's World Cup final

Spain captain Olga Carmona said: "The first two World Cups didn't go the way I wanted but the third definitely did!

"Craziness really. I ran for the bench. Everyone piled on top of me. I almost couldn't breathe. It was an incredible moment and one I will never forget."

Spain head coach Jorge Vilda said: "The end result is a learning process which has made us all stronger."

"I'm proud of what we've achieved. We're extremely happy. We're going to Sydney [on Wednesday] and we want to win."

What's next?

Spain will play Australia or England in Sunday's final in Sydney, with kick-off at 11am.

Sweden will face the losers of the other semi-final in the third-place play-off on Saturday in Brisbane, with kick-off at 9am.

What is the schedule?

The second semi-final between Australia and England takes place on August 16 at the Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final on August 20.

A third-place play-off will be played the day before the final on August 19 in Brisbane.

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