It’s not the great players who decide the games at this women’s World Cup. This was shown once again in the first semi-final between Spain and Sweden, which the Spaniards narrowly won 2-1. However, it was not the stars of the team – Jenni Hermoso, Alexia Putellas or Aitana Bonmati – who set the tone, but younger players who do not yet have such a great reputation as their more prominent teammates.
During the entire tournament, the big stars gradually said goodbye to the World Cup stage – mostly without having shone as expected: Brazil’s top star Marta was eliminated in the preliminary round, as were Alexandra Popp and the DFB women – as was Christine Sinclair with Olympic champion Canada. Norway’s Ada Hegerberg did not have a good tournament with Norway and was only able to play twice before the deserved knockout round against Japan due to groin problems. US star Megan Rapinoe, for whom her last World Cup before the announced end of her career should bring another World Cup title, hardly got any playing time and failed with her team in the round of 16 on penalties against Sweden.
Putellas has to make room early
The pale appearance and early substitution of Alexia Putellas for the Spaniards against Sweden were also emblematic of this development. The former world footballer, who only regained her fitness in the spring after tearing her cruciate ligament, was only on the pitch for 56 minutes against the Swedes who had been stronger up to that point. Putellas replaced Salma Paralluelo, a fast attacker who made a lot of noise and later made it 1-0.
“It was a bit difficult at the beginning of the second half,” said Spain coach Jorge Vilda after the game. “Things went better after the change. That’s how the goal was scored and everything went well in the end.” It went well because Olga Carmona, another young player, made a courageous decision after the Swedes equalized and fired a powerful shot just before the end of the regular 90 minutes, which Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic was able to direct to the lower edge of the bar , from where he jumped into the goal to score the winning goal.
“It’s a historic moment,” said coach Jorge Vilda about his team’s first participation in a World Cup final. “We really wanted to achieve that. We’re really happy. We played with all our souls and we’re very happy.”
Guaranteed winners at 19 and 23
He was also happy because he had two young players in his ranks, Salma Paralluelo and Olga Carmona, who did the right thing at the crucial moment. Paralluelo, daughter of a Spaniard and a mother from Equatorial Gunia, is only 19 years old. She could have become an outstanding track and field athlete, but decided on a career on the soccer field, where she repeatedly uses her immense speed to great effect.
“Now the final is waiting,” said a happy Paralluelo after the game. She had already scored against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. “I think we gave our all in every game and faced every challenge. Now comes the last big challenge and we want to give our all to win the game.”
At 23, winning goalscorer Olga is not much older. As a Real Madrid player, she’s always been a bit overshadowed by the successful blocks of Champions League winners FC Barcelona’s players. Nevertheless, she has captained Spain’s “Furia Roja” at this World Cup since the second round match.
Young, but already decorated with titles
She will do that again on Sunday (08/20/2023) in the final in Sydney. Opponents will be either co-hosts Australia or European champions England. For Spain with Salma Paralluelo and Olga Carmona there is probably only the outsider role.
Despite their young age, both of them already know how to win titles: In 2018, Paralluelo won the U17 European Championship and the U17 World Cup with the Spanish team. In 2022 she also became U20 World Champion. Olga Carmona won the 2018 European Championship with Spain’s U19s – beating Germany 1-0 in the final.
Spain 2-1 Sweden (0-0)
Gates: 1-0 Paralluelo (81′), 1-1 Blomqvist (88′), 2-1 Carmona (89′)
Spectators in Auckland: 43.217