Heartbreak for England as Lionesses miss out on World Cup glory after defeat to Spain

England’s Lionesses have missed out on glory at the Women’s World Cup after being beaten 1-0 by Spain.

Closely missing out on repeating their success at Euros 2022, Sarina Wiegman’s team fought to the very end at a packed-out Stadium Australia in Sydney.

But a first-half goal by Spain’s Olga Carmona, who shot across Mary Earps into the far corner in the 28th minute, broke England’s hearts.

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England had come close to taking the lead themselves in the 15th minute when Lauren Hemp’s shot hit the bar.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 Spain's Olga Carmona scores their first goal past England's Mary Earps REUTERS/Carl Recine
Spain’s goal by Olga Carmona

A shot from England's Lauren Hemp, right, hits the crossbar during the Women's World Cup soccer final between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
A shot from England’s Lauren Hemp, right, hits the crossbar. Pic: AP

Two changes at half-time saw Lauren James and Chloe Kelly replace Rachel Daly and Alessia Russo for the Lionesses, as they tried to turn the game around.

Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso then missed a chance to double her side’s lead from a penalty – granted after a handball by Keira Walsh – after a heroic save by Earps, who dived to her left to save in the 69th minute.

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James then forced a save from Spain’s goalkeeper from a tight angle a few minutes later, as England pushed for an equaliser.

But it wasn’t to be, as the Lionesses fell short at the final hurdle.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 England's Alessia Russo in action with Spain's Irene Paredes REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

The game will still go down in history as the first time the Lionesses have reached the final of the tournament.

It is also only the third time Spain have qualified for the World Cup, only having won a single match in the tournament until this year.

But La Roja are now champions of the world, with a victory which will push forward the women’s game in Europe.

Hopeful of an England victory, the nation flocked to pubs and bars for the 11am kick-off (BST), with the game tipped to give a £185m boost to the UK economy.

The King and Queen also issued a rallying cry of “roar to victory” beforehand and the prime minister urged players to bring the trophy home, although neither attended the game.

Play was briefly disrupted during the first half after a protester entered the pitch before an England free kick. The man was swiftly removed from the pith by stewards.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 A pitch invader wearing a shirt in protest against Russia's president Vladimir Putin is detained by stewards REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
A protester stormed the pitch during the first half of the match

Disappointment after undefeated run to final

England were undefeated in the tournament before today’s game, but the journey to the final wasn’t without its challenges.

Before the World Cup even began, captain Leah Williamson and striker Beth Mead were ruled out of playing in the tournament due to ACL injuries.

The first two games saw the team secure 1-0 victories against Haiti and Denmark, followed by a whopping 6-1 win over China to finish top of Group D.

But the Lionesses were quickly pushed to their limits when coming up against Nigeria.

A red card handed to Lauren James – which was later followed by a two-game suspension – meant the team were down to 10 players in the last 16 match.

The game went down to a nail-biting penalty shoot-out, before a 4-2 win saw them progress into the quarter-finals against Columbia.

After falling behind to a goal from Leicy Santos, goals from Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo booked them a slot in the semi-finals against co-hosts Australia.

A stunning 3-1 win against the Matildas secured the Lionesses’ spot in the final against Spain, which even without the win felt like a “fairytale” to Weigman, who also took the Netherlands to the final of the tournament in 2019.

Last time England faced Spain – in the 2022 Euro quarter-finals – they won 2-1.

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