Spain have booked their place in the final of the 2023 Women’s World Cup with dramatic 2-1 victory over Sweden.
Superstar teenager Salma Paralluelo came off the bench to score with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining and after Rebecka Blomqvist levelled in up in the 88th minute, Olga Carmona scored just moments later as the Spaniards reached the final of the tournament for the first time in their history.
Spain had never advanced beyond the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup but will now face either European champions England or host nation Australia in Sunday’s final as Sweden’s 39-year wait for a major trophy goes on.
Sweden, who finished third at the last World Cup in 2019, went into the match as the more experienced side but it was Spain who came out on top following an intriguing battle between two contrasting styles as La Roja looked to dominate possession and their opponents attempted to counter and utilise set pieces.
The opening 10 minutes of the match were tense without any real chances and the first two opportunities fell to Spain – Alba Rodondo heading a ball across goal before Sweden scrambled clear – and Carmona firing narrowly wide from 25 yards in a bright start for the less experienced side.
Spain continued to dominate the first half with a series of other half chances including a powerful right-foot shot from Aitana Bonmati, which went wide, and Sweden had their first real opportunity not long before the break as Barcelona forward Fridolina Rolfo forced a close-range save from Cata Coll.
The sides went in at half-time locked at 0-0 and after the restart Sweden appeared more composed and focused, enjoying more possession and half-chances than in the opening 45 minutes, but the game was just as tight and cagey as before without any big opportunities.
There was late drama as Paralluelo handed Spain the lead on 81 minutes in what was La Roja’s first shot on target in the entire match and the goal was allowed to stand following a VAR check with concerns over an offside player in the build up, but the video officials were happy with the referee’s decision.
Blomqvist levelled it up for Sweden in the 88th minute with an unstoppable curling effort past Coll after latching onto Lina Hurtig’s header and poking the ball into the opposite corner as we looked set for extra-time.
But Spain re-wrote the script, going up the other end of the pitch and bagging a late winner via Carmona, with the ball finding her on the edge of the box from a corner as her shot hammered off the underside of the bar and into the net to spark wild scenes in Auckland.
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