Not many would have predicted it before the tournament kicked off, but Spain became the first team to book its place in the Women’s World Cup final on Tuesday.
La Roja produced another impressive performance to beat Sweden 2-1 in the semifinals to make yet more history for the country.
Spain’s women had never progressed further than the last-16 before this year but are now just one win away from lifting a first ever World Cup trophy.
The team’s success has captured the imagination of the Spanish public back home, who are all very much behind their team.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, sent his congratulations to the national team after Tuesday’s semifinal victory.
“To the final!” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Keep making history. All of Spain is with you.”
The excitement of watching the team make history was shared by Spain’s other top sports stars.
World Cup winner and Barcelona legend Andrés Iniesta took to social media to call the players “giants” after their victory against Sweden. Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos wrote on X, “Congratulations! Spanish pride! We’ll be with you pushing in the final! Let’s go!”
Meanwhile, two-time grand slam tennis champion Garbiñe Muguruza posted on X: “Let’s keep going!!”
It was sentiment echoed by fellow double major winner Carlos Alcaraz who wrote on X: “LET’S GO, TEAM!!! Congratulations and let’s go for the [trophy] on Sunday!”
The success wasn’t just felt by those in the world of sport, Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas also sent his praise.
“Bravo!!! Proud of this team of women football players with class, heart and faith in themselves. Thank you!!!” he wrote on X.
Despite dominating much of the game against Sweden, Spain – the tournament top scorers (17) – struggled to find the breakthrough.
That was until 19-year-old sensation Salma Paralluelo opened the scoring with an unerring finish in the 81st minute.
The goal sparked the game into life and Sweden equalized just seven minutes later, before Olga Carmona’s long-range effort looped in off the crossbar to give Spain the win.
Paralluelo was in tears of joy at the final whistle, as she continues her remarkable rise at this tournament.
After scoring the winner in extra-time of the quarterfinal against the Netherlands, Paralluelo once again changed the game after coming on as a substitute in the 57th minute against the Swedes.
‘Loads of emotion’
In addition to her goal, her pace and physical presence up front allowed Spain to launch sustained attacks.
Eventually, her hard work was rewarded with the ball in the back of the net.
“Once again, loads of emotion just like the last match,” Paralluelo said after the semifinal.
“It was a really tough game when they scored that goal … but we were able to bounce back like always because this team gives everything.”
When asked what she was thinking about when standing on the pitch as the full-time whistle blew, Paralluelo replied: “My family, everyone that supports me, in them [the players], we deserved it. We’ve taken this little step, and now, we’ve got one more big push.
“We’ve just got the final left, we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing every match.
“We’ve been going from one challenge to another and now we have the last one – the big one – and we’re going to work hard to do it.”
Despite the nation’s ongoing success in Australia and New Zealand, it was far from a perfect preparation for the first World Cup finalist.
Issues arose when 15 players declared themselves unavailable for selection in September last year, citing their emotional and physical health and an unappreciation of them, primarily focused on the practices of head coach Jorge Vilda.
The Spanish federation (RFEF) chose to stand behind Vilda and six players – including two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas – eventually reversed their decisions, but the saga left in its wake a fractured group of players; albeit a talented one.
Despite the noise surrounding preparations for the World Cup, the Spanish players have showed no signs of being bogged down and are now one step away from sporting immortality.