SYDNEY (AP) — The Latest from the Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain:
The Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain has started in what statistically should be a close match.
Spain through the tournament has created almost twice as many scoring chances per game (24) than England (14). But the Lionesses are considered a more clinical team.
England coach Sarina Wiegman is undefeated in this tournament with six wins to reach the final. Wiegman, who was hired in late 2021 as the team’s first non-British manager, is back in her second consecutive finale.
She’s the only coach in the history of the tournament to take two nations to the final. Wiegman was coach of the Netherlands when the Dutch lost 2-0 to the United States in 2019.
But, England has scored fewer goals than Spain in this World Cup on its way to the championship game. Spain has scored 17 goals, to 13 for England. Conversely, Spain has conceded seven goals to England’s three.
England has three clean sheets in the tournament.
Gareth Southgate, coach of England’s men’s soccer team, said he had “no advice” for women’s counterpart Sarina Wiegman ahead of the Women’s World Cup final against Spain.
“You’re doing a brilliant job, so that’s the first thing, and of course there is no advice because you’ve done more than us already, and you know what is needed to win,” Southgate said in a nearly seven-minute star-studded video posted to the Lionesses’ social media account ahead of Sunday’s game.
The video featured multiple British celebrities wishing the team luck as England tries to win its first Women’s World Cup title, and first World Cup for the nation since the men’s team won in 1966.
“All that remains is to wish you the very best for the final, and we hope you can bring that trophy back. Good luck everybody,” Southgate said.
Other celebrities featured in the video included England men’s captain Harry Kane, former Spice Girls Gerri Halliwell and Emma Bunton, alternative rock singer Yungblud and former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand.
“This is a moment, man. This is history in the making,” Ferdinand said. “You girls are close. I have every faith in you, so please, make me cry. Make me cry.”
England retained the same starting lineup for the Women’s World Cup final as the Lionesses’ used in their seminal victory, which meant playmaker Lauren James was on the bench Sunday against Spain.
James is returning from a two-game suspension for stomping on a Nigeria player in the round of 16. The 21-year-old James apologized to her teammates but was not available for England’s wins over Colombia and Australia.
The Chelsea winger scored three goals and had three assists in the tournament prior to her red card.
Ella Toone, who started in place of James during her suspension, was the listed starter for England against Spain.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin was not in attendance for the Women’s World Cup final despite the championship match featuring two European teams.
England and Spain were facing off for what will be the first Women’s World Cup title for either team.
UEFA instead was represented by Nadine Kessler, technical director of women’s soccer.
Čeferin was in Athens on Wednesday for the Super Cup final between Manchester City and Sevilla. He also attended a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his visit.
A 29-year-old AEK Athens fan was stabbed and died in an Aug. 7 attack before a Champions League qualifier in Athens that involved scores of Dinamo Zagreb supporters.
King Charles has urged England to bring a World Cup home for the first time since 1966 in a social media post to the Lionesses.
King Charles wrote in his social post “Good luck today Lionesses, and may you roar to victory!” He signed it “Charles R.” It followed a lengthier post the King made after England qualified for its first Women’s World Cup final with a semifinal win over Australia.
Meanwhile, Prince William has apologized for not traveling to Australia for the final. He is the president of England’s Football Association. Both he and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have been criticized for not traveling to the game. Queen Letizia of Spain and her 16-year-old daughter are in Sydney to cheer on La Roja.
In a video posted on the Prince and Princess of Wales′ social media account, William wished the Lionesses luck alongside his daughter Princess Charlotte, who held a ball.
“Lionesses, I want to send you a huge good luck for tomorrow. We’re sorry we can’t be there in person, but we’re so proud of everything you have achieved and the millions you’ve inspired here and around the world. So go out there tomorrow and really enjoy yourselves,” William said.
Princess Charlotte added: “Good luck Lionesses.”
Teenage super-sub Salma Paralluelo is in Spain’s starting lineup for the Women’s World Cup championship game Sunday against England, while star Alexia Putellas returns to the bench.
Paralluelo scored the game-winning goal against the Netherlands in extra time of the quarterfinals, and the 19-year-old scored Spain’s go-ahead goal in the semifinal victory over Sweden. The Barcelona forward provided a much-needed boost off the bench every time Spain coach Jorge Vilda called on her.
Putellas has been recovering from a torn ACL suffered last year and has been used in various roles throughout the tournament. She started in the semifinal against Sweden.
Spain announced its starting lineup on social media.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup