England will take on Spain on Sunday in both sides’ first-ever Women’s World Cup final.
The game will be a rematch of the 2022 European Championship quarter-final, which England won following a close game thanks to a Georgia Stanway strike in extra time.
A lot has changed since the game at the Amex Stadium 13 months ago. Whether that be personnel, the direction of the teams or events behind the scenes.
Mail Sport has looked at what’s different from the last time the two sides last faced off.
England will take on Spain in both teams’ first-ever World Cup final in Australia on Sunday
Sarina Wiegman’s side booked their place in the final with an emphatic 3-1 win over Australia
The two sides last faced off at Euro 2022 in the quarter-finals, with England winning the tie 2-1
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Leah Williamson’s ACL injury
Captain Leah Williamson led a senior England side to their first major trophy since 1966 on home turf last summer, uniting the nation and helping women’s football in the country develop even further.
She was central to the side’s success. Leading from the metaphorical front, she became the poster girl for the England team bonded together by a mission for success and a mission to drive the game forward.
In April, however, disaster struck when she became the latest women’s player to suffer a torn ACL when playing for Arsenal against Manchester United in the WSL.
England’s hopes of success this summer were up in the air when their on-field leader was ruled out of the World Cup, but Millie Bright, vice captain and Williamson’s cente-back partner has stepped up to lead fantastically down under.
Bright could well lift the trophy on Sunday as England look to go back-to-back in major tournaments.
England captain Leah Williamson (centre) has missed the tournament with an ACL injury
Williamson picked up the injury in April playing for Arsenal and was ruled out of contention
Williamson’s vice captain and centre-back partner Millie Bright has stepped in to lead the team
Beth Mead also on the sidelines
Alongside Williamson, Mead was one of the stars of England’s success last year.
The now-28-year-old won the Golden Boot as England went all the way, scoring six goals, laying on five assists and being named Player of the Tournament.
It looked as if England could build a team around Mead as they searched for more success.
She went onto win all sorts of accolades. England Player of the Year, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, UEFA Player of the Year, and finishing runner-up in the Ballon d’Or.
England’s star of their European Championship success and perhaps their best player Beth Mead has also been dealing with an ACL issue
Mead had hopes of being fit in time for the tournament but failed to return from the injury
But, like her Arsenal team-mate Williamson: disaster struck. Before picking up nearly all her awards, Mead tore her ACL in November 2022 and has been out of action ever since.
How could England possibly cope without two of their star players? Well, they have.
Lauren James’ emergence has been a welcome development for the Lionesses, and Wiegman must decide whether to reintroduce her into the side for Sunday’s game following suspension or continue with semi-final goal scorer Ella Toone.
Ellen White’s retirement
There was a lot of talk around England’s forward position at the Euros, with Alessia Russo regularly scoring from the bench and Ellen White still leading the line.
But White started every game for Sarina Wiegman’s side as they won the tournament, scoring twice before retiring at the end of the competition.
England’s former forward and all-time leading goal scorer Ellen White has retired since last year
White is an England legend, their all-time top scorer, and is now dipping her toes into punditry after welcoming her first child with her partner in April.
It’s not been easy replacing White. Russo has been the woman chosen for the job, scoring twice so far, and will likely lead the line again on Sunday.
Spain’s leadership disaster
Women’s football in Spain was turned upside down in September when a group of players made themselves unavailable for selection.
Following their qualifying campaign for the World Cup, several stars were involved in trying to force change in the setup, due to events that reportedly significantly impacted the players’ emotional state and health.
Spain head coach Jorge Vilda has been the centre of controversey in the last 12 months
Despite players refusing to play for the team, Vilda has led Spain to their first World Cup final
The movement focused on a want for head coach Jorge Vilda to be removed from his post, but he stayed on with support from Spain’s Royal Football Federation.
Some players, including Irene Paredes, Jennifer Hermoso and Patri Guijarro claimed they had not asked for a change in coach, but passed on the feelings of the players.
A number of players made themselves unavailable for selection following the news, including six that started the defeat to England last year, with the Federation hitting back at the players, saying they only wanted ‘committed footballers’ in their team and those who went on strike would be only be considered for selection again if they apologised.
Vilda stood his ground. He’s now led his side to a World Cup final. Some argue the success is because of him, whereas others suggest it’s despite him.