Spain secured their place in the first FIFA Women’s World Cup final after battling to a 2-1 win over Sweden. Their qualification followed a thrilling finish in the semi-final on Tuesday in Auckland.
Olga Carmona scored the decisive goal in the 89th minute following a pulsating conclusion to the game which saw Sweden substitute Rebecka Blomqvist cancel out teenager, Salma Paralluelo’s goal.
Sweden had the best chance of the first half three minutes before half-time when Nathalie Bjorn lofted a cross to the far post but Fridolina Rolfo’s side-foot shot was pushed away by Cata Coll.
The second half was similarly cagey before Spain carved out an opening with 20 minutes to go.
This was when substitute Paralluelo kept the ball alive but Alba Redondo was unable to steer her shot inside the post.
Spain edged in front with nine minutes to go when Jenni Hermoso’s cross bounced back off Jonna Andersson and Paralluelo swept the ball home.
Sweden levelled with two minutes to go when Lina Hurtig directed a high cross to fellow substitute Rebecka Blomqvist, who steered a fine finish beyond Coll.
But Spain was back in front moments later when a corner was rolled to the edge of the penalty area to Carmona.
The captain’s shot crashed in off the underside of the crossbar, with Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic only getting fingertips to the ball.
Spain will now face Australia or England in the final at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Sunday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Spain’s Paralluelo, aged 19 years and 275 days, has become the second youngest player to score in a FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final match.
This is after Canada’s Kara Lang (16y 348d) which was also against Sweden in 2003.
An excited Jorge Vilda, Spain coach, said that they can’t wait to know their opponents.
“We got ahead on the scoreboard and they tied us again. The team overcame it, we scored the winning goal and now we have enormous happiness.
“In the first minutes of the second half, we had a bad time. They were getting very close, but the game changed and we had more bite.
“It went well. We are waiting to know our opponent (in the final). Let’s see who wins. We know both teams well. We are in the final of a World Cup. My hair is standing on its ends,” she said.
Spain’s Paralluelo also adjudged the player of the match, admitted that it was a difficult game against Sweden, adding however that they deserved to be in the final.
“It was a very tough game. It could’ve been difficult to recover from their goal, but we’ve shown that this team can deal with everything.
“We deserved this. We took this little step, and now we need that final push. Now it’s the final. I think we have to do what we’ve done in every match. We’ve overcome every challenge and now we face the ultimate challenge, the big one,” she said.
Peter Gerhardsson, Sweden coach expressed disappointment over the result, noting that it was the team’s third loss in the semi-finals.
“I have to watch the game, I really do, before I can make any assessments. Right now I am full of emotions. It is the third loss in the semi-finals. I think everyone just feels sadness and a huge disappointment. It was an enormous feeling that we scored and maybe we would go to extra time. And just over a minute later, it’s turned again. And that can happen,” he said.
Kosovare Asllani, Sweden’s captain said it was a very sad feeling to lose the semi-finals, adding that it was a huge disappointment.
“You’re empty, you’re disappointed, you’re just tired of tournament tears and being sad. I didn’t think we would experience that again, not in this tournament, given the feeling we’ve had and the tournament we’ve done. A big disappointment,” she said.