England and Spain will both play in their first Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in what promises to be a close affair between the two European heavyweights.
They certainly deserve to be there, having graced the greatest stage in women’s football with quality displays and tactical wherewithal.
But how did these two teams get to the final in Sydney, Australia? Al Jazeera looks back at their long, and occasionally bumpy, road to the final:
Spain 3-0 Costa Rica: July 21
A barnstorming first-half performance from Spain saw the game all but over after three goals in 27 minutes.
Aitana Bomati’s second goal, a delightful curled shot into the far corner, was certainly one to remember.
Spain missed a penalty later on and hit the crossbar, but there was no doubt that La Roja had taken their foot off the pedal in the second half.
England 1-0 Haiti: July 22
As is often the case, the tournament finalists did not get off to a flying start.
England struggled to overcome Haiti, ranked 53rd in the world, in an edgy affair separated in the end by a penalty gifted to England after Haiti’s Batcheba Louis inexplicably tapped the ball out of the air with her hands as if playing volleyball.
Spain 5-0 Zambia: July 26
La Roja breezed past Zambia scoring two goals in 13 minutes. Zambia briefly grew into the game, but a second-half flurry of goals put the game to rest.
England 1-0 Denmark: July 28
The Lionesses hardly roared in their second game of the tournament as they overcame the Danes by only one goal – however, Lauren James’ sixth-minute goal, a delicate, lofted curler from outside the area, was delightful,
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) July 28, 2023
Japan 4-0 Spain: July 31
Spain were completely outplayed by Japan in the final group-stage match. Japan utilised the wings, dragging Spain’s defence out wide and opening up space for Hinata Miyazawa, Riko Ueki and Mina Tanaka to finish with aplomb.
China 1-6 England: August 1
Finally, the Lionesses had begun to look like the team who had won the European Championships in 2022 as they easily saw off China.
James was the star of the show, being involved in five of England’s six goals and scoring twice.
An awesome night in Adelaide for our #Lionesses! 🦁
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 1, 2023
Switzerland 1-5 Spain: August 5
Bonmati gave Spain the lead after five minutes, only for Switzerland to equalise through an own goal six minutes later, despite not registering a single shot in the first half.
Alba Redondo then took the lead again with a header after 17 minutes, and after that, Spain were in cruise control. Veteran, Jennifer Hermoso provided the icing on the cake for Spain with a delightful curled goal for their fifth and final goal of the day.
🤩 ¡¡𝗙𝗜𝗡𝗔𝗟 𝗗𝗘𝗟 𝗣𝗔𝗥𝗧𝗜𝗗𝗢!!
🙌 PRIMERA VEZ EN LA HISTORIA QUE SUPERAMOS UNA ELIMINATORIA EN UN MUNDIAL.
España ha vencido a Suiza por 1 a 5.
— Selección Española Femenina de Fútbol (@SEFutbolFem) August 5, 2023
England 0-0 Nigeria (4-2 on penalties): August 7
It has been said that the sign of a good team is to win while playing badly, and that is precisely what England did in a fraught encounter with Nigeria at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
The Super Falcons registered 20 shots and hit the crossbar twice as they proved the better side over 90 minutes.
England, however, were able to see the match into extra time, where Nigeria were only able to convert two of their spot kicks, and England progressed to the quarterfinals.
Spain 2-1 Netherlands: August 11
A tense encounter exploded in a flurry of action in the final minutes of the match when Mariona Caldentey scored a penalty in the 82nd minute, followed by a last-gasp equaliser by Stephanie van der Gragt in the 91st minute.
Salma Paralluelo then twisted away from the Dutch defence thumping the ball across the goal to score a dramatic 111th-minute winner.
😂 ¡Que levante la mano quien haya despertado a sus vecinos gritando gooooooooool! pic.twitter.com/SttMmlapxD
— Selección Española Femenina de Fútbol (@SEFutbolFem) August 11, 2023
England 2-1 Colombia: August 12
The Lionesses fell behind after a cagey opening 40 minutes after Colombia’s Leicy Santos scored a looping shot from the edge of the area.
A calamitous mix-up in the Colombian defence gifted England an equaliser just before half time. In the 66th minute, Russo put England ahead as they weathered the storm in the final stages of the second half to book a spot in the semifinals.
Spain 2-1 Sweden: August 15
Both teams had missed several chances, before Paralluelo, Spain’s quarterfinal hero, slammed in Spain’s opener in the 81st minute.
👉 SALMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. OTRA VEZ SALMAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
— Selección Española Femenina de Fútbol (@SEFutbolFem) August 15, 2023
Just seven minutes later, Sweden’s Rebecka Blomqvist found herself unmarked in the box as she placed the ball past the Spanish keeper.
A minute later, Olga Carmona was on hand to rifle in Spain’s winner from distance.
Australia 1-3 England: August 16
Ella Toone opened the scoring in the 36th-minute opener with a thunderous strike into the top corner. Sam Kerr then sent the home crowd wild with a stunning long-range strike.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 16, 2023
Lauren Hemp then capitalised on some poor defending to put England back in front.
Kerr continued to threaten and missed two guilt-edged chances. Then in the 85th minute, Russo struck to put England into the final.