Drama, controversy, joy and heartbreak at the 2023 FIFA Women´s World Cup Final

by Lorraine Williamson
World Cup

FOOTBALL – The Women´s World Cup was played on a big stage and according to Euromonitor, would be watched by billions throughout the world. Emotions were high, both on and off the pitch, and as expected the competition was surrounded by drama, controversy, joy, and heartbreak.

Spain were the ultimate winners, but the Lionesses didn´t make it easy for them. In this article, we look at the action and emotions before during and after the final of the 2023 FIFA Women´s World Cup.


Jorge Vilda

Vilda has been head coach for the Spanish Women´s football team since 2015.

But before the World Cup even began, there was drama surrounding the Spanish manager. In the months leading up to the competition, 15 players from the Women´s Squad wrote identical letters to the federation complaining about Vilda. They criticised his training methods and lack of proper preparation and organisation for such a big tournament.

Despite the complaint, however, the federation put their faith in Vilda, and he remained head coach. Subsequently, the women then made it clear they would not be available for selection to the La Roja squad.

As reported by Marca, the fifteen players were;

  • Ainhoa Moraza
  • Patri Guijarro
  • Leila Ouahabi
  • Lucia Garcia
  • Mapi León
  • Laia Aleixandri
  • Claucia Pina
  • Aitana Bonmatí
  • Ona Batlle
  • Andrea Pereira
  • Mariona Caldentey
  • Sandra Paños
  • Lola Gallardo
  • Nerea Eizaguirre
  • Amaiur Sarriegi

However, Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí and Mariona Caldentey were on Jorge Vilda’s shortlist for the World Cup, after notifying the Federation of their availability to be called up again, unlike the other 12 players.

Furthermore, all three played pivotal parts in the success of the team.

Red card

Between the two sides, Lauren James was the only player to have received a red card. James was sent off in the match against Nigeria after she stamped on her opponent in the round of 16. She later apologised, however it meant she received a two-match ban and was only able to return for the final against Spain.

Mary Earps shirt row

Earps received the Golden Glove award for her performances throughout the World Cup, yet kit sponsors, Nike didn´t think to create a retail version of the goalkeeper´s jersey. Nike stated “they are working towards solutions for future tournaments”. Earps responded by commenting on their statement and posting it as an Instagram story on her account @1maryearps

Nike did not reproduce Mary Earps Jersey

This was not only a major missed commercial opportunity, but more importantly, upsetting and a let-down for Mary Earps, and for her thousands of fans.


Luis Rubiales

Luis Rubiales, the boss of the Spanish football federation has come under fire twice for inappropriate behaviour since Spain lifted won the World Cup.

Firstly, touching his gentiles in a “celebratory way” in the presence of the unsuspecting  Infanta Doña Sofía. Video footage has circulated on social media. This is the moment here.

Then during the medal presentation, Rubiales once more, took his excitement to an unacceptable level by lifting and kissing Jenni Hermoso hard and full on the lips.

Immediately after, according to the Guardian Newspaper, Hermoso told her team mates that “she didn´t like it”.

Pedro Sanchez broadcast a video and said that “it was an unacceptable gesture” and that “the excuses and apology weren´t sufficient”.

Yolanda Diaz, called for the resignation of Rubiales.

Irene Montero, Minister of Equality condemned the act, and posted on her social media, “Let’s not assume that giving a kiss without consent is something “that happens”. It is a form of sexual violence that women suffer on a daily basis and until now invisible, and that we cannot normalise. It is the task of the whole society. Consent in the centre. Only yes is yes”.

Cogesa Expats

Following the incident, as mentioned above, Jenni Hermoso stated that she did not like it. Furthermore, she seemingly refused to take part in a video apology from Rubiales, and a statement released to social media to play down the situation was apparently not authorised by Hermoso.

The federation are set to meet this week.

The snub of the handshakes

Alexia Putella swatted away the hand offered by coach Vilda when he substituted her during the semi-final against Sweden. Putella was injured at the time the 15 sent their letters, but she was known to have given them her support.

Lucy Bronze did not shake the hand of FIFA boss, Gianni Infantino during the medal presentations. Her reasons were clear and have since been applauded by some.

His comments on equal pay for women footballers in the World Cup that led to the snub were said during his speech At FIFA’s Women’s Football Convention in Sydney. He stated:

I say to all the women, that you have the power to change.

Pick the right battles. Pick the right fights. You have the power to change.

You have the power to convince us men what we have to do and what we don’t have to do. You do it. Just do it.

Infantino continued by saying that equal pay at the World Cup would “not solve anything” in regards to the inequalities in the sport. 

It might be a symbol but it would not solve anything, because it’s one month every four years and it’s a few players out of the thousands and thousands of players,” he said, “We need to keep the momentum. We need to push it. We need to go for equality but we have to do it for real.


And you, here in this room, all the women in this room, you have the power to do it. So believe in it.”

A further snub came from Keira Walsh, for reasons unknown, she turned away from Letizia and la Infanta Doña Sofía and also Luis Rubiales and didn´t shake their hands before moving on the line to shake the others.

Watch the moment here as it was captured on TikTok.


Scoring arguably, the two most important goals, including the winning goal against England, Team Captain, Olga Carmona featured in all 6 games on the tournament. Her 90th minute goal put Spain into the final when they won 2-1 against Sweden.


News of the death of Olga´s father only reached her after the final game of the World Cup. Her father died on Friday, 2 days before the match against England. However, her family made the hard decision not to tell her to allow her to focus on the final.

During the stadium celebrations that followed the game, Carmona took the microphone and announced, “the best day of my life is also the worst day!”

Afterward, she took to X (formally Twitter) and posted, “Stars that accompany me and shine forever” alongside an image of her kissing the trophy.


The Lionesses played their hearts out, and must be proud of their achievements, and how they conducted themselves throughout.

La Roja put their troubles behind them, and spoke on the pitch where it mattered. They made history.

Awards went to 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo of Spain for Best Young Player award. The Golden Glove award was received by England´s Mary Earps. The Golden Boot went to Japan’s Hinata Miyazawa for scoring 5 goals, and the Aitana Bonmatí won the Golden Ball Award.

The coaches

No doubt, the coming days will see what lays ahead for Vilda. As for Sarina Wiegman, according to Dutch publication, KhelNow, there is talk of her being the target of the Dutch FA to head up men´s national team.

They were no losers. To have come so far and achieved so much. Not only on the pitch, but also off where thousands of young girls and women will have been inspired by such talent and passion. Both teams should be proud to be role models for future female players of the “beautiful game”.


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