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From mutiny to Women's World Cup final: How Spain defied the odds

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
From mutiny to Women's World Cup final: How Spain defied the odds
Spain's players and officials celebrate their win in the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup semi-final football match between Spain and Sweden at Eden Park in Auckland on August 15, 2023. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

Coach Jorge Vilda was derided by some of his players as a control freak who was not up to the job, but Spain now stands on the brink of making history at the Women's World Cup.

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Spain have defied turmoil off the pitch to make their own history.

They had never even won a knockout game at the World Cup before their exploits in Australia and New Zealand.

Now La Roja will face England's Lionesses in front of a sell-out 75,000 crowd in Sydney in Sunday's final.

Rewind to nearly a year ago and their success over the past four weeks would have been unthinkable.

Their preparations were clouded by a dispute with 15 players who last year said they no longer wanted to be considered for selection.

The exact nature of their complaints was never officially made public, but Spanish media had previously reported that they wanted the 42-year-old coach Jorge Vilda sacked.

READ ALSO: Where to watch the Spain-England Women's World Cup final on TV in Spain

The players later denied that, but they were reported to have a litany of complaints about how things were run on and off the pitch.

Reports said the players, many of whom were at Barcelona, accused Vilda of being "dictatorial" and did not approve of his training methods or tactics.

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Coach Jorge Vilda and his strict personality may have been chief among a litany of complaints, but here they are, missing 12 of the 15 but on the cusp of world domination.

England have not been perfect in reaching the final and needed penalties to see off Nigeria in the last 16, before more convincing displays in defeating Colombia and Australia.

Spain have also had their challenges at this tournament.

They were thumped 4-0 by Japan in their final group game, the caveat being that both teams had already qualified for the knockout rounds.

Spain then thrashed Switzerland 5-1 and squeezed past the Netherlands and Sweden by identical 2-1 score lines, the victory over the Dutch coming in extra time.

Vilda says that the turmoil that once threatened to torpedo their World Cup "made all of us stronger".

"Now we can file it away and put it behind us and think about the future, and think that we deserve to be where we are," he said after Olga Carmona's sumptuous 89th-minute strike propelled them past Sweden in the semi-finals.

It is proof of Spain's depth of resources that they have hardly missed the players who refused to play under Vilda.

On top of that, reigning two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas has been reduced to a bit-part role as she struggles to regain form and fitness after injury.

In her place, Barcelona playmaker Aitana Bonmati - who had been part of the protesting 15 - has emerged as Spain's creative force and the player England must stop.

History now beckons for Spain at a Women's World Cup that has broken records on and off the pitch and which will reach a suitable climax on Sunday with a highly anticipated final. 

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