History has been made. Against the odds and amid a backdrop of turmoil, Spain reached the pinnacle in Sydney on Sunday, beating England 1-0 to win the Women's World Cup for the first time.
That Spain had progressed to the final, given the tumultuous year the national team had experienced, was remarkable. That La Roja triumphed against the reigning European champion and pre-match favorite in spite of the disputes and divisions which have clouded the national team throughout the tournament makes this achievement extraordinary.
Olga Carmona's wonderful 29th-minute strike proved to be the winner. Spain could even afford to miss a second-half penalty as La Roja became only the second country, after Germany, to win both the men's and women's World Cups.
As Spain's players celebrated by forming a joyful heap of red on the Stadium Australia pitch, many of England's players were in tears as hopes of becoming the country's first senior soccer world champion since 1966 were ended by a brilliant Spain.
For possession and attempts on goal, there was only one team in it – Spain outplayed England. But there is some solace for the Lionesses which, like La Roja, were competing in a Women's World Cup final for the first time because the team has progressed further than ever before in this competition. Even in defeat, England had made history.
Prince William paid tribute to the "spirit" of the Lionesses, posting on X, formerly known as Twitter: "Although it's the result none of us wanted, Lionesses you have done yourselves and this nation proud."
But it is Spain which celebrates and it is Spain's future which shines the brightest, especially if off-pitch issues can be resolved, because now, incredibly, the Iberian nation is a Women's World Cup winner at Under-17, Under-20 and senior level.
Read more about how Spain won the Women's World Cup final here.
Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas played a different role at this Women's World Cup than she is accustomed to.
After suffering an ACL injury just before last year's European Championships, Putellas fought back to be fit enough for selection for the World Cup.
A two-time Ballon d'Or Féminin winner and widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, Putellas hasn't quite recaptured her old form and fitness and was used largely as a substitute in Australia and New Zealand.
Putellas – who credits Barcelona and Spain teammate Irene Paredes for helping her through some of her most difficult moments – had plenty of people to thank for supporting her.
“I’m happy for everyone that feels part of this, for my family – it’s been a very difficult year – for my teammates and for the pioneers that have been here and have supported us," she said.
“This is also for them."
Putellas was philosophical on her reduced role at this World Cup, simply saying: "That's football."
"One day, it’s your turn, another day, it’s somebody else’s turn," she said. "For me, what is key is the respect we [the players] have for each other."
Salma Paralluelo, Spain's emerging superstar, urged fans to "dream big" following the national team's Women's World Cup triumph.
The 19-year-old was part of the Spain squad that won the Under-20 Women's World Cup in 2022 and praised her family for continuing to push her to new heights in her career.
"Thank you so much to my family for helping me grow like I have, for always pushing me to dream and not put limits on myself," she told reporters.
They're the reason that I'm here today."
"Football is football and many things can happen on the pitch, but you have to believe until the very end.
"You have to dream big to achieve big things and, when the opportunity arrives, take advantage of it.
"We can't stop here, we need to keep putting women's football on top."
Veteran defender Irene Paredes, who refused to be drawn on whether this would be her last World Cup, said she always "tried to believe" the team would win the tournament.
"Because if not, it's impossible to come here," she told reporters. "So it was a dream and it's been quite hard, but we knew it was possible and finally we showed it.
"We know [England's] qualities, we have a really good team and we've been doing a lot of work. We were confident in ourselves and, finally, we showed the world how we can play and show 'This is Spain.'"
Spain has arguably one of the biggest and most talented pools of players to pick their women's national team from.
Even with 12 experienced first-team players missing in Australia and New Zealand, La Roja ended the tournament as world champion.
The youth national teams are also currently the reigning Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup champions, meaning the future is very bright for Spain.
But midfielder Teresa Abelleira paid homage to the nation's first international female footballers and thanked them for helping to pave the way for this team.
"It's indescribable," she told reporters. "What we've achieved is incredible. I still don't think what we've just achieved has really sunk in. We're super happy.
"Things have been going well the last couple of years with the youth teams," she added, referencing Spain's U17 and U20 World Cup wins.
"But we have to look further back than that and at the women who started in the national team without any resources when nobody believed in them and they fought so we could be here today."
Goalkeeper Mary Earps was one of England's star performers in the Women's World Cup final, her acrobatic saves keeping the Lionesses in the tournament and within touching distance of Spain throughout the final.
Earps' consistent brilliance throughout the competition won her the Golden Glove awarded to the best goalkeeper of the World Cup, but she told reporters after the 1-0 defeat to La Roja that she would "have traded it any day for a gold medal," though she might appreciate her achievement "when the emotion settles."
"I'm proud of that, of course," she said, "but we set out to get a gold medal tonight and all those individual things, they come secondary to team success."
Earps said that she is "really proud of the girls in the sense that we've overcome a lot of adversity to be in this position... Not many people get to a World Cup final and I know that's something to be proud of, but right now, it's superseded by a lot of emotion."
"Generally, we just couldn't find that goal, couldn't find that breakthrough," she said. "I think there were a few things that we could have done better, but ultimately, it is what is. You’re playing against a fantastic side and the result didn’t go our way tonight."
Jenni Hermoso, Spain's all-time record goalscorer, was fighting back tears of joy after the full-time whistle.
The forward could barely get her words out in between sobs as the enormity of her team's achievement began to sink in.
"We've spent a lot of days trying to imagine this, but I don't think it's sunk in that we're champions of the f***ing world," she told Spanish national broadcaster RTVE.
"This is the best feeling I've ever experienced in football, in my life. We dedicate this to all of our families and all the people who came from Spain.
"We played football the way we wanted to and we've won the World Cup."
England manager Sarina Wiegman paid tribute to her Lionesses for "overcoming so many challenges" at the Women's World Cup, including losing several key players before the tournament due to injury.
"Of course, it feels really bad now," she said. "We got to the final and then we lose it, but how we have shown ourselves, who we are, how we want to play, overcoming so many challenges we can be very proud, but it doesn’t feel that way at the moment."
Wiegman added, "Spain were a little bit better than us today and they had a great tournament, so congratulations to them."
England found itself behind after half an hour following Olga Carmona's goal and changed to a different formation after half-time.
"Two very different halves for us. The first half, we really struggled to have pressure on the ball, so we changed in the second back to 4-3-3, which gave us momentum," Wiegman said.
"I thought we got momentum, then the penalty and then the injury with Alex Greenwood, and we lost it."
Prince William has paid tribute to the "spirit" of the Lionesses after they were defeated 1-0 by Spain in the Women's World Cup final
"Although it’s the result none of us wanted, Lionesses you have done yourselves and this nation proud," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"Your spirit & drive have inspired so many people and paved the way for generations to come. Thank you for the footballing memories."
"Congratulations to Spain," he added.
William, the president of England's Football Association, sent a message of support to theLionessesahead of Sunday's final but has received plenty of criticism for his decision not to travel to Sydney, with many suggesting that he would have attended had it been the men's team in the final.
"Really think inconceivable that [UK Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak AND Prince William (the FA President, no less) wouldn’t be at the World Cup Final if it was the men’s team playing," former BBC journalist Jon Sopelwrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"Happy to accept might be impossible for the PM, given other commitments. But Prince William? Why?"
Mark Bullingham,Chief Commercial & Operating Officer of the FA, told the BBC earlier this week that they've "always known he wouldn't be able to attend, sadly, because of his diary but he's been a brilliant support of the team throughout."
Meanwhile, King Charles III sent his "heartfelt thoughts and commiserations on the result of the World Cup final," but paid tribute to the Lionesses' "skill, determination and team spirit," and for serving as "an inspiration for generations to come."
Spain head coach Jorge Vilda said he was filled with "immense joy and pride" at his team's World Cup-winning performance.
But the players’ harmonious play and historic feats on the pitch during this tournament are in contrast to the turmoil between some of the country’s best players, Vilda and his technical staff and Spain’s soccer governing body.
For months, a large number of the squad’s leading players have been at loggerheads with Vilda and Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF), a dispute that led to 12 of La Roja’s star names missing this World Cup.
Some videos after the final on social media show the players again seeming to shun or overlook Vilda during the celebrations, but the 42-year-old said it was "difficult to describe" the happiness he was feeling at full time.
"Immense joy and pride in this team. I'm so happy for everyone that was watching, that we've made them happy as well," he told reporters.
"We've shown how we can play, we've shown that we know how to suffer. This team believed and we're world champions.
"Go and celebrate! The only thing left to do is celebrate. I can imagine what Spain is like at the moment.
We're also going to start celebrating here and I don't know when [the celebrations] will end."
You can read more about Spain's turmoil behinds the scenes here.