Spain and England Set to Face Off in the Australia 2023 Women’s World Cup Final
By Allan Wolfburg
Spain and England have surprised the world by securing their spots in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, signaling a significant shift in the landscape of elite women’s soccer. This unexpected turn of events raises important questions about what these nations did differently, and how Latin American teams can achieve similar success.
Both Spain and England were latecomers to the women’s soccer scene, lagging behind powerhouses like the United States, Japan, Germany, Norway, and Brazil. However, the transformation of both teams began with the development of competitive local leagues. Although Germany and France were the first to establish strong women’s teams, it is hard to deny the dominance of the English Super League, which was created only in 2018.
In Spain, Barcelona has been at the forefront of women’s soccer for years, nurturing talents like Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmatí, while Real Madrid will celebrate its fourth year in the women’s branch. The economic power of clubs in both countries has played a significant role, as it allows for improved infrastructure and potential for more equitable pay in the future.
Similar to men’s soccer, talent recruitment is crucial for any country aspiring to compete at the highest level. In England, changing the perception of football as a purely masculine sport was a pivotal step. The English Football Association (FA) banned women from playing competitively in the 1940s until it was restored in the 1970s. The subsequent spread of women’s soccer in a sports-hungry country brought a significant number of women into the game.
This year’s Women’s World Cup saw a breakthrough for African teams, with Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa all making it to the knockout stage. This success can be attributed to the investment and follow-up given to women’s soccer in their respective countries. For instance, Zambia, making their World Cup debut, garnered significant attention and even secured a victory against Costa Rica.
Spain’s journey to the Final began five years ago with the support of the Royal Spanish Football Federation and coach Jorge Vilda. Despite encountering challenges along the way, such as disputes within the national team, Spain’s participation in this World Cup is by far their best. Similarly, England’s project saw rapid development, with the support of men’s clubs and the appointment of coach Sarah Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the Final in the 2019 World Cup.
Latin American soccer, however, has stagnated in comparison. Apart from Colombia, no other team from the region advanced from the group stage. Mexico, once considered a strong competitor, failed to qualify for the World Cup, and Brazil was eliminated in the group stage for the first time. Nevertheless, there is hope for improvement in the medium term. Panama showed promise in a challenging group, and Argentina also showcased resilience. With better conditions and investment, Latin American teams can aspire to reach new heights.
Various countries in the region already have women’s soccer leagues, but economic conditions for players still leave much to be desired. Many players are forced to juggle soccer with other jobs. However, the increasing popularity of broadcasts, although still limited to pay systems, indicates a growing interest in women’s soccer, particularly in countries like Mexico and Colombia. With wider dissemination of the World Cup, the sport could thrive in Panama and Costa Rica.
While there is still much work to be done to improve the conditions for female soccer players and the overall projects in Latin America, the successes of Spain and England serve as a reminder that progress takes time. Just like Rome, women’s soccer can be built brick by brick, and these recent achievements give hope for a brighter future.
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