Almost 20 per cent of playing time at the Women’s World Cup went to players from English-based clubs.

Spanish champions Barcelona were the dominant individual club as their nation defeated England in the final and here, the PA news agency looks at what the statistics show.

Super League shows the way

Twenty of England’s 23 finalists play for Women’s Super League clubs, with Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh contributing to Barca’s tally and Georgia Stanway of Bayern Munich the other exception.

That was a big factor in the English league’s dominance but, mirroring the growth of the men’s Premier League, the collection of top talent from around the world has also contributed significantly.

While none of the Spain squad play in the WSL, beaten semi-finalists Sweden and Australia both gave more than 45 per cent of their minutes to players based in England.

A total of 89 players from English clubs featured on the pitch in Australia and New Zealand, combining for 29,104 minutes of playing time out of the 146,252 minutes across all players at the tournament (19.9 per cent).

Ever-present Lionesses Mary Earps and Alex Greenwood led the way with 756 minutes each, with Australia’s Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord playing 750 and 749 respectively.

English-based players also scored 37 goals, 10 more than those from any other domestic league, led by four each from Sweden and Arsenal defender Amanda Ilestedt and Manchester City’s Dutch midfielder Jill Roord.

Ilestedt and 15 Arsenal team-mates combined for 6,048 minutes and a dozen goals, while 16 Chelsea players played a total of 5,228 minutes. City’s 13 representatives played 4,858 minutes and scored 11 goals, the latter figure one behind Barca and Arsenal’s leading total.

Barca success continues

Those figures are eclipsed by Barca, who had a tournament-high 18 players and 7,608 minutes of playing time while matching Arsenal’s goal tally.

The club won last season’s Spanish title and Champions League and nine of their players – Irene Paredes, Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmati, Salma Paralluelo, Mariona Caldentey, Cata Coll, Laia Codina, Alexia Putellas and Maria Perez – can now call themselves world champions as well.

That came at the expense of Walsh and Bronze in the final while Fridolina Rolfo reached the last four with Sweden. Norway pair Caroline Graham Hansen and Ingrid Syrstad Engen, Switzerland’s Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala, Italy teenager Giulia Dragoni and Brazil’s Geyse were their other representatives.

Paris St Germain edged out Real Madrid, and their seven Spain players, for fifth place in playing time and matched their eight goals, a total also shared by Lyon and American side Racing Louisville – home of Brazil’s Ary Borges, who scored a hat-trick against Panama, and South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana and China’s Wang Shuang with their two goals apiece.

Another notably overachieving club in the goals column were Japan’s MyNavi Sendai with five. They had only one representative at the World Cup but that player was Hinata Miyazawa, who won the Golden Boot as her country reached the quarter-finals.

England will learn on Tuesday the consequences for their World Cup group campaign caused by Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell being summoned to face rugby’s judiciary.

Six Nations, the organisers for the warm-up fixtures, has announced Vunipola’s hearing for being sent off for a dangerous tackle against Ireland will take place on Tuesday evening.

Earlier that morning, Farrell faces an independent disciplinary panel for the second time in a week after World Rugby appealed the decision to overturn his red card for a high challenge against Wales.

Both players are facing six-week bans that can be reduced for mitigation but with just one match left until the World Cup – against Fiji on Saturday – any suspension will impact their quest to qualify from Pool D and most importantly their key opening fixture against Argentina on September 9.

Vunipola is the squad’s only specialist number eight while Farrell is its captain, talisman and goalkicker, making the duo influential personnel who Steve Borthwick can not afford to lose.

Each player was shown a yellow card that was upgraded to red by the bunker review system after making similar tackles in a collapse of England defensive discipline.

Vunipola’s came on Saturday during a 29-10 rout by Ireland in Dublin, the Saracens back row clattering into Andrew Porter’s head with his shoulder.

A week earlier Farrell had ploughed into Taine Basham’s head, causing the Wales flanker to fail an HIA.

The original disciplinary hearing cleared Farrell, finding mitigation in a late change in dynamics by Basham, but an outcry followed the failure to issue a ban and World Rugby appealed.

Jude Bellingham has made a flying start to his Real Madrid career but that comes as no surprise to Gus Poyet due to the midfielder's mentality.

Carlo Ancelotti's side saw off competition from Liverpool and a host of other European clubs to sign Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund ahead of the 2023-24 season.

The England international has soon settled into life in Spain, scoring three goals in his first two LaLiga games after Saturday's brace against Almeria.

Poyet, like many other coaches and former players, pinpointed Bellingham's mentality and told Stats Perform the former Birmingham City man was always going to go to the top.

Poyet said: "I knew Bellingham because I had an interview with Birmingham four or five years ago, before he went to Dortmund, and I watched the team obviously.

"I watched him play and I was thinking 'wow' at the potential he had at 17 or 18 years old.

"So you see the player, but then you need to meet the person, the personality, the passion, how can he handle the pressure, what he likes and what he doesn't. And I think that is what people are seeing now at Real Madrid. 

"We knew that he had the quality, we knew that he made a big impact at Borussia Dortmund, especially when you saw him at Dortmund sometimes being the captain. You think that he must be special because of this.

"The quality, everyone can see, but I think the most important quality of Bellingham is his mentality.

"He is very strong, he believes in himself, he knows what he wants. He made decisions early in his life, leaving England his comfort zone to go to Germany at that age and now, boom, he is at Real Madrid."

Bellingham, aged 20 years and 51 days, is the second-youngest player to score in his opening two LaLiga games – only behind Markel Susaeta in 2007 (who was 19 years and 275 days old).

Poyet does not foresee Bellingham slowing down any time soon either, as Madrid eye a fruitful period with one of the world's most exciting talents in their ranks.

"I think he's going to be at Real Madrid for a long, long time," Poyet added. "He is going to be very good for the club and for himself."

The 20-year-old also had an assist against Almeria. He is just the third player to be involved in four goals in his first two LaLiga outings in the 21st century, along with Wesley Sneijder (2007) and Mounir El Hamdaoui (2013).

England head coach Steve Borthwick hopes for swift disciplinary resolutions after Billy Vunipola joined Owen Farrell as a World Cup doubt following his dismissal in a damaging 29-10 defeat to Ireland.

Captain Farrell watched from the stands in Dublin as England slipped to a meek loss compounded by the second-half red card of Saracens team-mate Vunipola for ploughing into the head of Andrew Porter.

Influential fly-half Farrell was free to feature in the warm-up game but was ultimately left out following World Rugby’s appeal against the decision to overturn the red card he received in last weekend’s win over Wales.

With England’s World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9 fast approaching, Borthwick faces potentially being without two of his key men through suspension for the start of the tournament in France.

He was tight-lipped on Vunipola’s tackle, but is eager for matters to be concluded quickly on the back of the disruption already caused by the ongoing Farrell saga.

“I’m not going to comment upon the incident specifically because it goes into a disciplinary process this coming week,” said Borthwick.

“Probably as every England fan, I feel disappointment in the game today and I said beforehand we want 15 players on the pitch for 80 minutes of every game.

“You’re playing the number one ranked side in the world in their stadium and to go to 14 men it becomes a very difficult task at that point in time

“Hopefully we will find a conclusion on both matters this week and it won’t go into another week. Once I have all the facts, I will deal with them.

“We talked about the way this Test week was disrupted (by the Farrell situation) and I need to adapt throughout the week. It’s another challenge that’s been thrown at us.”

England offered little at the Aviva Stadium, even before falling a man down when Vunipola’s 53rd-minute sin-binning was upgraded to a red on review.

Tries from centres Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose gave Ireland control at the break, before scores from James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Keith Earls sealed a comprehensive victory.

Replacement prop Kyle Sinckler crossed for England, but it was scant consolation on a difficult evening when stuttering World Cup preparations were thrown into further disarray.

“Whilst I’m incredibly disappointed with the result, the players kept fighting,” said Borthwick.

“I thought the players that came off the bench added on the pitch.

“Just before half-time at 7-3, we missed some opportunities and turned over ball in the final third, so we weren’t able to put enough pressure on them.

“When it was 15 against 15 it was a tight battle, unfortunately it didn’t stay 15 on 15.”

Ireland retained their place at the top of the world rankings courtesy of a 12th successive win.

Earls stepped off the bench to mark his 100th cap in style with his 36th international try as the hosts overcame a disjointed opening period.

Head coach Andy Farrell said: “It had a bit of everything: good, bad and ugly.

“I wasn’t too happy at half-time. We had them in a place where we could push a little bit harder and make it a little bit easier for ourselves but we didn’t kick on.

“I was really pleased that we found or rhythm back into the game. I thought we scored some great tries.

“Obviously the story of the day is it’s very fitting that Keith gets his 100th cap and we made sure he does that with a W and also him scoring a try in Keith Earls style in the corner just made the day for everyone really.”

Hooker Dan Sheehan limped off shortly before half-time, with Farrell waiting to discover the extent of that issue.

“Dan’s lost a bit of power in his foot,” he said. “We won’t know until we get it scanned. We’ll probably know more in the morning.”

Billy Vunipola was sent off as England’s stuttering World Cup preparations were thrown into further disarray by a costly 29-10 defeat to Ireland amid Owen Farrell’s ongoing disciplinary saga.

The number eight is likely to miss the start of the tournament in France after his 53rd-minute yellow card for making contact with the head of Andrew Porter was upgraded to red.

Steve Borthwick’s men were comfortably dispatched in a disjointed Dublin affair, which influential captain Farrell sat out following the fallout of his dismissal against Wales last weekend.

Vunipola’s premature departure compounded a meek display and he will now join Saracens team-mate Farrell in facing a disciplinary panel with England’s World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9 fast approaching.

Keith Earls marked his 100th cap by claiming the fifth of Ireland’s tries, adding to scores from Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, James Lowe and Mack Hansen, as the hosts retained their place at the top of the world rankings courtesy of a 12th successive win.

Andy Farrell’s dominant side were far from their free-flowing best but still had too much for their depleted rivals, although the first-half departure of hooker Dan Sheehan is a concern.

Replacement prop Kyle Sinckler claimed a late try shortly before Earls stylishly celebrated his milestone appearance but it was little consolation for the visitors.

England crossed the Irish Sea seeking the greatest win of the Borthwick era so far to ignite their World Cup build-up but they were in unconvincing form especially with the situation surrounding skipper Farrell dominating headlines.

Replacement fly-half Ford slotted an early penalty before the away team were swiftly put on the back foot as a superb break from Peter O’Mahony allowed Aki to charge beyond Ben Youngs and touch down under the posts, leaving Ross Byrne with a simple conversion.

While England have endured a tumultuous time since finishing runners-up at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Six Nations champions Ireland have enjoyed an impressive period of progression masterminded by head coach Farrell.

The Englishman fielded the bulk of his star names for the first time since clinching the Grand Slam against Borthwick’s men in March, which perhaps explained frustrating levels of rustiness in a fragmented opening period littered with stoppages.

Ford missed the chance to reduce England’s deficit with a second penalty before Ireland’s Sheehan hobbled off due to an apparent injury.

There looked like being no further inroads on the scoreboard before the break until Hansen’s clever cross-field kick exposed the opposition’s defence, with Ringrose inadvertently propelled over the try-line by a combination of Elliot Daly and Freddie Steward.

England, who are expected to learn the fate of Farrell in midweek, offered very little from an attacking perspective in a fairly forgettable first half which they ended 12-3 behind.

Their evening quickly took a turn for the worse when Vunipola ploughed into Porter.

Referee Paul Williams initially deemed the sin-bin to be sufficient punishment but the England back-rower, whose trudge from the field coincided with Farrell flashing up the big screen to a chorus of boos, would not return.

Ireland wasted little time in capitalising on their numerical advantage as Lowe was afforded yards of space to catch Byrne’s pass and cross wide on the left, before Hansen added to their misery by diving over on the other flank.

England’s attempts to avoid a drubbing were helped by Sinckler bulldozing over.

But they were powerless to prevent Ireland registering a fourth consecutive win in this fixture, with veteran wing Earls raising the roof thanks to a spectacular diving finish on his landmark outing.

It says something about England manager Sarina Wiegman that even her own players have to remind themselves that their boss is a mere mortal.

One of the most memorable moments of this World Cup came when, on the eve of the Lionesses’ final group stage match against China, midfielder Georgia Stanway relayed an anecdote about meeting members of Wiegman’s family in Australia that concluded with the quip, “Sometimes you don’t realise your head coach is actually human.”

it would be easy to look at the 53-year-old’s incredible record and insist she must be some kind of superhero from Planet Football who six years ago arrived on Earth with the mission of conquering as many major competitions as possible, beginning when she steered the Netherlands – her actual place of origin – to the Euro 2017 title.

The reality is far more interesting – and relatable. In 2007, the part-time coach and PE teacher was offered a  semi-professional role leading ADO Den Hag in the newly-formed Eredivisie Vrouwen, a risky move she resolutely replied she would only make if it was upgraded to a full-time gig.

“I never talk about my husband (Marten Glotzbach) that much but then it was about my family,” she told the PA news agency.

“I quit my job. We didn’t earn a lot of money by being a professional coach, but I really wanted to do the job. And he said, ‘this is your passion. Go for your passion, and we’ll be alright with the two daughters.’

“And that was for me the most important thing, that we as a family were OK, and I could do this job properly. I said I want to do it full time because I want to focus on football, and if I couldn’t do it full-time I wouldn’t have done it, because then I couldn’t bring the quality that was needed to develop the game.”

Under the former Netherlands midfielder, who as a child cut her hair and pretended to be a boy to evade a ban forbidding girls from playing football, ADO Den Haag won the national championship in 2012, and the FA Cup-equivalent KNVB Cup in 2012 and 2013.

Wiegman, who earned 104 caps for her country, had witnessed what investment in the women’s game could yield from her time spent playing for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels – also the alma mater of current Lionesses Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy – in the late 1980s.

The opportunity to play in America came after a chance meeting with then-US women’s national team head coach Anson Dorrance at a 1988 FIFA-sanctioned proof-of-concept tournament in China that would eventually lead to the establishment of the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991.

Dorrance, who still works at UNC and remains in touch with Wiegman and her playing trio, told the PA news agency:  “You could see something in her even incredibly early that set her apart.”

Writing in the Coaches’ Voice, Wiegman said: “America was like a soccer paradise for me. There was recognition, the facilities were great and we had good coaches – passionate coaches.

The year I spent there changed my life. It changed my mindset.”

Seven years after turning full time, Wiegman was back in the national team set up, this time as head coach Roger Reijners’ assistant.

She soon upskilled, interning with men’s side Sparta Rotterdam whilst on her pro license course, in the process anointing Wiegman as the first woman to coach with a Dutch men’s professional club.

The true pioneer was handed the Netherlands’ top job permanently in 2017, just six months before she would guide the hosts to a maiden Euros victory.

Less than a year after leaving the ‘Orange Lionesses’ for the English ones in 2021, Wiegman steered her new side to the same trophy, the first coach to do so with two different countries.

When England sealed their trip to a first-ever World Cup final with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over co-hosts Australia, Wiegman also became the first manager to reach the showpiece’s final hurdle with two different teams.

Four years ago in France, the Netherlands finished runners-up to the United States.

England – and Wiegman – are determined to do one better this year. The Lionesses have lost just once in 38 games under Wiegman, a record they are aching to extend to 39 on Sunday.

Both Wiegman and Dorrance would describe the England boss as “serious”, someone who has imported a sense of Dutch directness to the culture at St George’s Park.

That reputation – combined with a reluctance to steal any of the spotlight away from her players – belies a delightful and often self-deprecating sense of humour, impeccable comedic timing, and awareness that she does often have a resting “focused face” until she erupts with emotion after a goal or final whistle.

Despite her reputation as a serial winner, who FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said this week “could do any job in football”,  Wiegman revealed her biggest motivation and “love”, no matter how full her trophy cabinet gets, “is to work with work with very ambitious, talented people.

“Connecting people, trying to help players to support players and help them a little bit in their development, which helps them in life too.

“Yes I want to win and I want to be the best too but that gives me the energy.”

England are doing their best to make it business as usual as they prepare to face Spain in the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney on Sunday.

Defender Jess Carter insists there will be no additional nerves ahead of a game she never envisaged being a part of, while head coach Sarina Wiegman is preoccupied by a selection dilemma.

Here, the PA news agency looks at all the latest news heading into Sunday’s big one:

More the merrier for Carter

England defender Jess Carter admits every extra minute is a bonus as she prepares to feature in Sunday’s World Cup final.

The 25-year-old has been one of the lynchpins of her side’s run to within 90 minutes of a first women’s World Cup win but says she did not expect to get this far.

“When I didn’t play against Denmark, I wasn’t not bothered, but it was just like, ‘I’ve just played in a World Cup, I had more minutes than I thought I was ever going to get coming into this tournament’.

“I didn’t come into the tournament expecting to play at all.”

And the laidback Lioness is adamant there will be no stage-fright on the biggest occasion of all, just “positive energy” at the prospect of making history.

“I’m not really a nervous person,” she added. “I understand and know from the outside, it’s the World Cup final, your biggest moment.

“I play my best when I’m super calm. Maybe some people have nerves but I think that will be challenged into positive energy come the night.”

Wiegman’s selection dilemma

Sarina Wiegman faces a selection dilemma ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final as she decides whether to start striker Lauren James.

James scored three times and picked up the same number of assists before she was sent off in the last 16 win over Nigeria, sitting out the quarter-final and semi-final as a result.

Replacement Ella Toone scored in the 3-1 win over Australia in the last four but Wiegman has indicated she holds nothing against James, who apologised for her rash stamp on Nigeria’s Michele Alozie.

“Of course she really regretted that moment straight away,” said Wiegman. “She apologised, she was punished for that and we all know this should not happen in football.

“She started training again and we supported her, because sometimes when you’re not that experienced at this level some fatigue comes in the game and you have just a split second where you lose your emotions.

“That’s a mistake, that’s a hard learning lesson, but now she’s ready to play in the game.”

Vilda’s revenge bid

Spain coach Jorge Vilda is determined his side learn the lessons of their extra-time loss to England in last summer’s European Championship quarter-finals.

Vilda has guided his nation to their first final despite a backdrop of controversy after over a dozen top stars quit the squad last year in a row over their treatment.

Referencing their narrow defeat in Brighton, Vilda said: “It was a game that we know we were on top, but the result is what counts.

“Games against England really require our best. She (Wiegman) is a trainer that with her results has shown the fruits of her work, it’s not easy what she has achieved.”

Shutting down questions over the ongoing issues in his squad, Vilda added: “What we want to do tomorrow is be the best in the world and we’ll do this by winning the final.”

Opened up!

Cornwall Council were the first to heed a plea from cabinet minister Michael Gove to allow licensed premises to open one hour early for the World Cup final on Sunday.

Current regulations mean the sale of alcohol is widely prohibited before 10am on Sunday, but venues such as pubs also have specific hours they can stay open and serve alcohol depending on individual licences.

Gove urged councils to do everything they can to help premises extend their licenses, saying: “the whole nation is ready to get behind the Lionesses this Sunday in what is England’s biggest game since 1966.”

Cornwall Council, in association with Devon and Cornwall Police, were quick to heed Gove’s call, announcing that they will be no “enforcement action” if the alcohol starts to flow slightly earlier.

Swede dreams

Australia’s home World Cup came to a disappointing end as they were beaten 2-0 by Sweden in the third place play-off.

Kosovare Asllani sealed victory with a brilliant second half strike after Fridolina Rolfo had opened the scoring with a penalty on the half-hour mark.

The result rounded off a remarkable campaign from the Matildas, who captured the public’s imagination having only reached the quarter-finals once previously.

Australia coach Tony Gustavsson, whose side suffered a 3-1 semi-final defeat against England, said the journey was far from over, insisting: “We have a massive amount of work to do to capitalise on this.”

Daily SocialWhat’s next?

Final: Spain v England (Sydney, Sunday 1100BST)

Harry Brook has revealed his disappointment at being left out of England’s Cricket World Cup squad.

Ben Stokes’ decision to reverse his ODI retirement nudged Brook out of England’s preliminary squad for the defence of their 50-over crown.

England named a 15-man squad for their four warm-up matches with New Zealand in September and the same group will most likely be chosen to try and retain their world title in India in October and November.

After hitting 44 runs from 24 balls in the Northern Superchargers’ 13-run defeat to London Spirit in The Hundred on Friday, Brook said: “Obviously it’s disappointing (to be omitted from the World Cup squad), but I can’t do anything about it now, you’ve just got to move on. I’m trying not to think about it anymore.

“I’ve not had much conversation with (coach) Matthew (Mott) or (captain) Jos (Buttler). They said with Stokesy coming back I was probably going to miss out this time.

“He (Stokes) is one of the best players to ever play cricket, so I can’t really complain, can I?”

While Brook has made a flying start to his Test career, he has played just three ODI matches for England.

He added: “I feel like I’m playing well at the minute and feel I could potentially add value to the team. There’s always something more you could do.

“I haven’t had much opportunity to play one-day cricket, whether that be for Yorkshire or England and, although I’ve played a lot of T20 cricket I don’t know I’ve done as well as I have in the past in the last six months, so that might have had an effect.”

England defender Jess Carter is adamant even the prospect of playing Spain in Sunday’s World Cup final will not sway her steely nerves.

While many footballers will claim they take a business-as-usual approach to even the biggest games, the declaration feels especially genuine when articulated by the laidback 25-year-old, who has been instrumental in ensuring the Lionesses have conceded just three goals in their unbeaten run to the title decider.

The Lionesses have already assured themselves of a best-ever finish in a global showpiece by reaching this stage, and Carter is confident they can go one step further to secure England a first World Cup since 1966.

Asked if she would have any stage fright on Sunday, Carter replied: “Personally, I won’t have. It’s football.

“I’m not really a nervous person. I understand and know from the outside, it’s the World Cup final, your biggest moment. I play my best when I’m super calm. At the end of the day, it’s just a game of football.

“We have to perform as we did in the first group game. Maybe some people have nerves but I think that will be challenged into positive energy come the night.

“I’m super excited – I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.

“There’s been such a quick turnaround between the last game and the next that you almost don’t have time to notice what’s been going on. It’s head down, rest, recovery and get ready to go again.”

Each member of a team brings something different. Though Carter had not fully considered it, she acknowledged serenity could be seen as her signature strength.

She said: “I think I chat with everyone and that’s something that a lot of the girls say, that I am super chill. I’ve had a couple of people feed back to say that it’s a really nice, I guess, aura to be around a little bit.”

Carter’s journey to this point started later than many of her team-mates’.

Though she started playing casually when she was “four or five”, the now 25-year-old did not join an academy until she was 15, following a successful trial with Birmingham and – in her own words – was not a “consistent presence” in England’s youth set-up.

The Warwick native received her first senior call-up in 2017 and made her debut that November against Kazakhstan in a 2017 World Cup qualifier, but was not called back until nearly four years later, when then-new England boss Sarina Wiegman took a chance and named Carter in her first squad in September 2021.

Carter has been vital this campaign, starting every game except England’s second – a 1-0 victory over Denmark – and rapidly adjusted when Wiegman switched systems from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 after that match with Carter, captain Millie Bright and veteran Alex Greenwood forming the back three.

She said: “When I didn’t play against Denmark, I wasn’t not bothered, but it was just like, ‘I’ve just played in a World Cup, I had more minutes than I thought I was ever going to get coming into this tournament’. I didn’t come into the tournament expecting to play at all.

“I was so honoured to be part of the team. Obviously, of course, you always want to play every minute and when I spoke to Sarina and (heard) her reasons and our tactics, she’s going to make the best decisions that she thinks are appropriate to go and win a game.”

Carter, who can slot into both defence and midfield, does wonder how her career might have looked different had she instead been afforded the opportunity to nail down a single position, admitting: “That’s the question I ask myself every single day.

“It’s definitely something that’s a massive positive, but at the same time, sometimes I do wish that if I could just play this one position, absolutely smash it. Then I wonder what level I could get myself to if I could just focus on that point.”

Make no mistake, Carter is competitive and is as determined to win the World Cup as the rest of her team-mates, but the unfailingly calm and collected character comes out again when asked if she has stopped to think about how lifting the trophy could change her life.

She replied: “No. I’m just going to go home. I’m going to go home to my apartment, really and I don’t know, just chill.”

The ninth edition of the Women’s World Cup is almost over with only the final left to play.

A new winner will be crowned when England and Spain do battle in Sydney on Sunday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what we learned from this tournament.

USA dominance over

USA have been the leading force in women’s football for the past few decades, winning the previous two World Cups and claiming three gold medals at the Olympics, but they suffered a shock defeat to Sweden in the last 16 in Melbourne.

A number of other nations made early exits, including Olympic champions Canada going out in the group stage along with Euros runners-up Germany, but it was USA’s penalty shoot-out loss which caused the most astonishment.

With Megan Rapinoe retiring and other stalwarts Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and Alyssa Naeher unlikely to play at another World Cup, it finally feels safe to say USA’s glittering era is over despite the excitement around Sophia Smith.

Year of the underdog!


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FIFA Women's World Cup (@fifawomensworldcup)


Along with USA leaving the tournament early on, a number of emerging nations made their mark in Australia and New Zealand with South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco and Jamacia all making the knock-out stages.

Morocco qualified through Group H at the expense of Germany, who had thumped the African outfit 6-0 at the start of the World Cup. The Moroccan players were crowded around a phone watching the final seconds of Germany’s draw with South Korea before erupting in celebration.

Their journey only lasted until the last-16 stage and it was the same for South Africa and Nigeria but never before had three African countries all made the knock-out phase. Meanwhile, Jamaica were able to send Brazil packing in the group stage. It helped to highlight the growing depth in the women’s international game.

England’s golden generation

England were close to exiting this World Cup against Nigeria after Lauren James’ red card, but Mary Earps and heroic defending was followed by shoot-out success to send them through to the quarter-finals.

The European Championship winners would have always hoped to go deep in this tournament, but a tricky draw on paper and injuries to Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson alongside the retirement of several key players last summer could easily have resulted in a poor showing.

In serial winner Sarina Wiegman and a group of players with incredible resolve and belief, England have managed to break new ground to reach a first World Cup final and given so many of this squad are in their twenties, it feels whatever happens on Sunday the Lionesses are ready to be the country to beat over the coming years.

Glass ceiling smashed!

Records have tumbled during this tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The bigger than usual format of 32 teams has resulted in more games and while plenty of drama has followed, the quality of football on show has helped to ensure ticket sales and TV viewing figures continue to go through the roof.

A whopping attendance of 75,784 has been recorded three times at Sydney’s Stadium Australia and according to FIFA, the average crowd across the 10 venues has been 28,900. A big increase from the previous edition in France or any other World Cup, but the world has also tuned in.

Despite matches usually being played outside of prime-time slots, Fox still had 2.52 million viewers watch USA’s last-16 defeat on penalties to Sweden, which kicked off at 5am in the Eastern time zone of the United States. BBC One had 7.3 million viewers watch England’s semi-final win over Australia and millions also turned on the TVs in Brazil, Colombia and China for matches containing their respective countries.

Room for improvement


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FIFA (@fifa)


There is still plenty of work to achieve in the women’s game though, with the build-up to this World Cup dogged by controversy and several countries playing amid the backdrop of internal tension, which should not be the case when players get the chance to perform on the biggest of stages.

FIFA faced criticism for its ‘Unite’ armbands, which were similar to the OneLove armband banned, but did not promote LGBTQ+ communities. The governing body also found itself in a storm for almost allowing Saudi Arabia to sponsor the tournament and president Gianni Infantino’s peripheral role at this World Cup compared to the men’s edition in Qatar.

Meanwhile, Spain’s presence in the final will conjure mixed emotions after several of their own players threatened to quit international football if head coach Jorge Vilda did not leave his position, citing the impact his regime had on their “emotional state” but he remained. Hati and Zambia’s participation in this World Cup occurred amidst sexual misconduct allegations against staff to highlight the hurdles still facing elite women footballers.

The final of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup between Spain and England is looming and the month-long tournament has not been short of standout players from different countries.

Here, the PA news agency’s Reuben Rosso-Powell looks at five star players who have shone the brightest during the tournament.

Linda Caicedo, Colombia

The 18-year-old had a breakout tournament and her two goals and an assist played an important role in Colombia advancing into the quarter-finals. Her stunning strike against Germany will no doubt be a contender for goal of the tournament.

Amanda Ilestedt

Centre-back Ilestedt has been an unlikely top scorer for her nation this summer having netted an impressive four goals from Sweden’s dominant set-pieces which helped her side reach the semi-finals.

Lauren Hemp, England

Hemp has scored important goals at crucial times for Sarina Wiegman’s England, including an equaliser in the Lionesses’ quarter-final victory over Colombia and putting them ahead against Australia in the semi-final. The Manchester City forward will look to build on her three goals in Sunday’s final.

Hinata Miyazawa, Japan

Miyazawa leads the Golden Boot race with five goals and was at the forefront of Japan’s free-flowing attacking football which dominated the early stages before they fell to Sweden in the quarter-finals.

Lauren James, England

James shone in the early stages of the tournament and gained plaudits for her memorable display against China. The Chelsea winger picked up three goals and three assists altogether before seeing red in England’s last-16 victory over Nigeria – but will be back in contention for the final against Spain after serving a two-match ban.

The Women’s World Cup has offered thrills, shocks and brilliant individual moments during the biggest competition in its 32-year history.

The tournament, which began on July 20, has seen 32 nations compete in Australia and New Zealand, with many writing their names into women’s football folklore.

Only two teams remain as either England or Spain will lift the World Cup for the first time in Sydney on Sunday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the pictures which have captured the essence of the World Cup.

Spain head coach Jorge Vilda batted away questions about his country’s absent stars on the eve of their World Cup final clash with England.

Vilda has guided Spain to their first final amid a backdrop of controversy and rows over the treatment of the team.

The showpiece game in Sydney takes place on Sunday morning, less than a year after 15 players staged a mutiny.

The arguments, which broke out in September last year, threatened to derail Spain’s hopes before an uneasy peace was brokered ahead of the World Cup.

Dubbed ‘Las 15’, the players who walked away were Patri Guijarro, Aitana Bonmati, Mapi Leon, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Panos, Claudia Pina, Lola Gallardo, Ainhoa Moraza, Nerea Eizagirre, Amaiur Sarriegi, Lucia Garcia, Ona Batlle, Leila Ouahabi, Laia Aleixandri and Andrea Pereira.

If an accommodation has been reached, it appears to be a delicate one. Only three members of the 15 – Bonmati, Caldentey and Batlle – were included in Vilda’s squad for the finals.

Despite the unrest and uncertainty, Spain have made it through to the final following a late win over Sweden in the last four.

Asked early on at his pre-match press conference about the relations between himself and some of his players, Vilda replied: “Next question please.”

Pushed on whether not having some key players in Australia made him “sad”, Vilda seemingly ignored the line of questioning.

“What we want to do tomorrow is to be the best in the world and we’ll do this by winning the final,” he said.

Spain lost 2-1 to England after extra-time at the quarter-final of the Euros last summer as the Lionesses went on to lift the trophy on home soil, with Sarina Wiegman and her players looking to add further silverware on Sunday.

“It was a game that we know we were on top, but the result is what counts,” Vilda said of the loss at the Amex Stadium,

“Games against England really require our best. She (Wiegman) is a trainer that with her results has shown the fruits of her work, it’s not easy what she has achieved.

“You don’t achieve this without excellent preparation and star players. It will be a tactical match and it’s a final that we’re going to fight with everything.”

Sarina Wiegman says England feel buoyed by the levels of support for the team ahead of the World Cup final.

The Lionesses take on Spain on Sunday as they bid to win the trophy for the first time.

Boss Wiegman said: “It’s incredible what happened. We felt the support, we felt the support here, but also from the other side of the world in the UK. That’s something that we dream of.

“I feel privileged. I’m very happy in the place where I am now. There’s a lot of support, we have everything we need to perform at the highest level. It is a pleasure to work with these incredible people.”

Wiegman was concise when asked how the team had reintegrated Lauren James, who could start on Sunday after serving a two-match suspension following her red card against Nigeria in the last 16.

She said: “Of course she kept training and it’s really nice to have 23 players available for tomorrow.”

Jon Lewis has opened the door for in-form Tammy Beaumont to force her way into England’s Twenty20 team before next year’s World Cup in Bangladesh.

Beaumont blitzed the first century in the women’s edition of the Hundred on Monday, smashing 118 off 61 balls for Welsh Fire, but she was only included in England’s ODI squad for the upcoming series with Sri Lanka on Friday.

England left Beaumont out of the T20 squad for the series with Sri Lanka, which begins on August 31, despite resting opener Sophia Dunkley.

Sophie Ecclestone will also sit out both series, while Danni Wyatt is only part of the T20 group and Nat Sciver-Brunt will only be involved in the ODIs but Lewis has preferred to give Maia Bouchier an opportunity in Dunkley’s absence.

He explained: “Obviously Tammy is playing fantastically well and I am really pleased with how she is playing.

“We had to make a choice around who would open the batting with Danni Wyatt.

“Maia Bouchier has been our travelling reserve for that whole time, so my view on that was Maia deserves that opportunity.

“I suppose on Tammy, and I said this to her, we have a year now until we pick a World Cup XV and I want her to keep doing what she is doing.

“The door is definitely not shut on her to play T20 cricket for England.

“I know she is desperate to play and how hard she is working, but I just want to try to develop the rest of the team to give us as many options as we can to put pressure on everyone who would be normally selected in the XI.

“I think Tammy is OK with the decision; I don’t think she is particularly happy but she understands if she continues to push her case, then she may well get the opportunity down the line but Sophia and Danni have done a fantastic job for us.

“I know what Tammy will do against Sri Lanka and I don’t know what Maia will do, so I am really interested to see how she goes because we’ve been carrying her around the world.”

England’s decision to manage the workload of Dunkley, Wyatt, Sciver-Brunt and Ecclestone has resulted in maiden call-ups for Mahika Gaur and Bess Heath.

Fast bowler Gaur has committed her international future to England after being selected in both white-ball squads.

The 17-year-old has represented United Arab Emirates in 19 IT20s but is set to make her debut for England after a fine summer where she helped North West Thunder make the Charlotte Edwards Cup Finals Day.

Heath hit 41 for England A against Australia A earlier this summer and is selected in both groups following a consistent run of form.

“I wouldn’t call it experimental. I would say it is exciting, young and fresh,” Lewis insisted.

“We have a year now until the World Cup and I am trying to work out which players we need to take to Bangladesh and it will be interesting to see how these young players do.

“Obviously Mahika is an exciting young talent. Six foot tall, left-arm swing bowler, that is very, very rare in the women’s game and unique.

“We have looked at all our options with the new ball around the country and we like what she offers.

“Will she play all the games? Probably not but we’d like to see what she can do and she is very much one for the future.

“Getting her playing cricket for England sooner rather than later is something we want to do to show her we like what she does and can help her develop.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.