5 players to watch in England’s World Cup final showdown with Spain

By Sports Desk August 17, 2023

The Lionesses will face Spain in their first-ever World Cup final this weekend after knocking tournament co-hosts Australia out of the competition on Wednesday night in Sydney.

Should the European champions succeed in lifting the trophy on Sunday, they will have to navigate their way past a Spanish side rife with talent – including nine players from 2022/23 Champions League winners Barcelona.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five players to watch when the monumental meeting kicks off in front of over 75,000 fans at 11am BST.

Lauren James

The 21-year-old forward missed England’s quarter-final and last-four ties while she served a two-match ban for a red card she was shown after stepping on the back of defender Michelle Alozie in the Lionesses’ last-16 battle with Nigeria.

Before the incident, World Cup debutant James netted three times and is still in a three-way tie for the competition’s joint assist leader with three, despite her absence.

Replacement Ella Toone scored England’s opener in their 3-1 semi-final victory, so it remains to be seen whether England manager Sarina Wiegman will risk modifying a line-up that has more recently clicked in favour of James’ early-tournament potency, or save her as a weapon off the bench.

Jennifer Hermoso

With double Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas seemingly struggling with her fitness, controversial Spain head coach Jorge Vilda has benefitted from strong showings by other members of his side.

Barcelona striker Hermoso – team-mate of England’s Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh and her side’s all-time top goal-scorer – has looked especially fearsome, scoring three times and providing two assists en route to Spain’s first World Cup final.

Team-mate Aitana Bonmati shares identical statistics, giving La Roja a potent power in attack even without Putellas on top form.

Mary Earps

Lionesses’ goalkeeper Earps could be called into action more than any other time in this tournament against Spain, who enter Sunday’s encounter with a competition-leading 17 goals.

The 30-year-old has thrived since becoming Wiegman’s first-choice between the sticks and last year was crowned the Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper after conceding just two goals and keeping four clean sheets across England’s Euro 2022-winning campaign.

The Manchester United shot-stopper has made some vital, potentially result-defining saves so far in this World Cup while conceding just three times –  Spain, meanwhile, have let seven in across their six matches.

Ona Batlle

You do not have to scroll far down lists of World Cup statistics before coming across Spain defender Batlle.

The former Manchester United full-back leads the competition in both passes and crosses into the penalty area and has won the most tackles, 15, of any player in the 32-team tournament.

Battle, 24, is also second to just England’s Alex Greenwood for touches taken with 37 fewer than the Lioness’ 669, and leads the competition with 34 progressive carries.

Alessia Russo

Russo got out to a quieter start to begin this World Cup after winning England’s starting centre-forward role from Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner Rachel Daly.

Her maiden World Cup goal came four minutes into England’s thumping 6-1 win over China in the group stage, an anomalous result in a campaign that had otherwise not seen the Lionesses score more than twice in a match until Russo netted late against Australia to set up the Spain showdown.

The summer Arsenal signing, who also scored the winner against Colombia in England’s 2-1 quarter-final clash, now leads the World Cup in both shots (22) and shots on target (12) and will hope at least a few more find the back of the net in Sydney on Sunday.

Related items

  • Real Madrid and England midfielder Jude Bellingham wins Laureus award Real Madrid and England midfielder Jude Bellingham wins Laureus award

    Jude Bellingham joined Novak Djokovic and Aitana Bonmati as the big winners at the Laureus World Sports Awards as the England midfielder won the World Breakthrough of the Year prize in Madrid.

    Bellingham became the first footballer to claim the honour the day after scoring Real Madrid’s late winner in their 3-2 El Clasico victory over Barcelona.

    The 20-year-old has had an outstanding first season at Real since joining from Borussia Dortmund last summer, scoring 21 goals in all competitions.

    Djokovic was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for a record-equalling fifth time after winning the Australian Open, French Open and US Open to lead the way with 24 grand slam men’s singles titles.

    “I am incredibly honoured to have won my fifth Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award,” said Djokovic.

    “I think back to 2012, when I won it for the first time as a 24-year-old. I am very proud to be here 12 years later, reflecting on a year that brought me and my fans a lot of excitement and success.

    “It was thrilling to return to Australia last January and win my 10th title. It is a tournament that is so dear to my heart and set me up for an incredible 12 months.

    “I could not have achieved so much success without an incredible team behind me, and inspirational rivals who have always pushed me to be the best version of myself.”

    Bonmati took to the stage twice to collect two awards – the first footballer to win the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year trophy and also represent the Spain team which won the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

    She said: “It is humbling to see the list of previous winners of this award.

    “From Serena Williams to Simone Biles, Lindsey Vonn, Naomi Osaka and last year’s winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, they are all incredible athletes who have not only excelled in their chosen sports, but been incredible role models for younger generations of young women and girls.

    “As the first women’s team to win the Laureus, we are proud of our status as pioneers and as a group we are as committed to equality and representation as we are to what we do on the football pitch.”

    American gymnast Biles, a three-time winner of Sportswoman of the Year, won the World Comeback of the Year Award.

    Biles collected four gold medals at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, her first global event since leaving the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health issues and entering a near two-year break from the sport she had dominated.

    Other award winners were Rafael Nadal (Sport for Good), Diede de Groot (World Sportsperson of the Year with a disability) and Arisa Trew (World Action Sportsperson of the Year).

    :: The 25th Laureus World Sports Awards took place on Monday 22 April in Madrid, celebrating the leading names in sport from across the globe. To find out more, visit www.laureus.com.

  • FA seeks ‘formal observations’ from Forest trio over comments about officiating FA seeks ‘formal observations’ from Forest trio over comments about officiating

    Nottingham Forest face the threat of Football Association and Premier League charges over their extraordinary attack on the officiating of their match against Everton on Sunday.

    Three Forest members of staff – head coach Nuno Espirito Santo, referee analyst Mark Clattenburg and full-back Neco Williams – have been asked by the FA to explain comments they made about the refereeing at Goodison Park, while the Premier League is also examining the club’s social media post which appeared to question the integrity of VAR Stuart Attwell.

    The statements from the authorities came within hours of Forest demanding the release of VAR audio related to the rejection of three penalty appeals during their 2-0 defeat.

    Forest first issued a club statement on X on Sunday, minutes after the final whistle, in which they said they had “warned” referees’ chief Howard Webb that Attwell “is a Luton fan” but that no change was made to the match appointment.

    The club went further on Monday evening and called on Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) to change its rules on officials’ allegiances to account for “contextual rivalries in the league table”, not just local rivalries.

    The Premier League said it was “extremely disappointed” by the statement issued on Sunday and added: “It is never appropriate to improperly question the integrity of match officials, and the nature of these comments means the Premier League will also be investigating the matter in relation to the league’s rules.”

    Sources have since told PA that Clattenburg did contact Webb on Friday to share that he thought Nuno might be asked about Attwell by the media, but that Forest did not raise Attwell’s appointment as a concern or make a request to change the appointment.

  • Chelsea to take strongest possible action after Nicolas Jackson racially abused Chelsea to take strongest possible action after Nicolas Jackson racially abused

    Chelsea have threatened to bring criminal charges against anyone found to have racially abused Nicolas Jackson in the aftermath of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City.

    The 22-year-old striker missed a number of chances at Wembley as his side bowed out of the cup with a 1-0 defeat and was subsequently the target of abuse on social media.

    The racist comments were left on an Instagram post he had made following last week’s victory over Everton, in which he scored his 10th goal of the season.

    In a statement, the club said: “Chelsea Football Club is disgusted by the racial abuse directed towards Nicolas Jackson via social media, following Saturday evening’s game.

    “There is no place in society for any form of discrimination and we operate a zero-tolerance approach to any incident of this nature.

    “The club will support any criminal prosecutions and take the strongest possible action, including bans, against any individual who is found to be a season ticket holder or member.”

    Defending the Senegal international’s record during his debut season – since signing for Chelsea from Villarreal – manager Mauricio Pochettino said: “Jackson is doing fantastic and he will always have my support.

    “He’s doing an amazing job for the team: running, scoring, assists.

    “It’s not easy in the first season. Nicolas fights for the club and he will be better next season, no doubts.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.