Spain’s win wraps up a chaotic but successful 2023 Women’s World Cup

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Aug. 21, 2023

I’m writing this after four hours of sleep, still working on my wrap-up stories for The Associated Press before I fly back home, so this post is going to be abbreviated. No interview, no links.

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Just vibes, I guess?

Spain won the 2023 Women’s World Cup in a 1-0 win over England, overcoming the turmoil of the past year on the squad and Alexia Putellas’ status after an ACL injury.

(Editor’s note: Annie said no links, but here is our only two: her game story for AP and our friend Jeff Kassouf at The Equalizer‘s game story on the final match from Stadium Australia.)

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I understand that Spain was hard to root for because of the players’ accusations and concerns. There was a lot of gossip floating around the Women’s World Cup about how bad, or how NOT bad, it actually was.

There were video clips of coach Jorge Vilda being snubbed at team celebrations, and then particularly icky moment during the medal ceremony when Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales appeared to forcefully kiss Jenni Hermoso.

Later, some outlets quoted Hermoso as saying “I did not enjoy that.” But the federation circulated a different statement purportedly from her saying it was spontaneous and mutual.

That incident sums up how these big international events get complicated for everyone involved. There were no translators after the game, and for those of us like me with only a rudimentary command of Spanish, it’s tough. We asked the Spanish comms person for a player to speak to us in English (Aitana Bonmati) but the Spanish media took over. Lots of misinterpretation happens!

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At the same time, some outlets thrive on controversy and clicks. So things are blown up without the true nuance considered.

And, finally, the players in some countries, especially the women, are not held in high regard by their federations. Player statements are often walked back by team officials, or “the other side of the story” is quietly leaked to the press.

At the AP, we try to stay above the tabloid-y click-bait journalism.

But the back-and-fourth was especially true in the case of the 15 Spain players who revolted last year. Federation officials kept saying: “Off the record, this is what really happened ….” The players, meanwhile, tried to keep the focus on the tournament.

Even when she asked about it after the match, Bonmati said that it wasn’t a fair question in the moment.

No doubt there will be more coming out about all of this once everyone gets back home and has a chance to rest and reflect.

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Spanish players cutting off a piece of the goal’s net after winning the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

In the meantime, I just want to take a moment to celebrate the Women’s World Cup. It felt from here like a rousing success, even through the United States crashed and burned. I know the game grew in Australia and I think — from what I hear — it grew in Spain. But it’s hard to judge, because I’ve been in such a bubble.

I look back on all the things that happened: The shooting to open the tournament, the Ferns’ big win, the U.S. struggles, the fantastic play by Japan and Hinata Miazawa. Linda Freaking Calciedo. Marta’s goodbye. Rapinoe’s goodbye. Sweden coming in third again. Sam Kerr’s banger.

Former USWNT coach and current San Diego Wave president Jill Ellis brought out the FIFA Women’s World Cup winner’s trophy to Spain on Sunday.

But right now I’m too tired to think. I’m looking forward to a week of knitting, reading, sleeping and finally watching the rest of Succession, which I’ll probably be doing in the wee hours of the morning.

Then I have a new kind of football to cover.

(Editor’s note: and we’ll find out the host of the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup on May 17, 2024. Four potential hosts had confirmed their interest in bidding to host: Brazil, South Africa a joint bid from Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands and a joint bid from the United States and Mexico.)

I promise I’ll have more next week, including what I thought were some of the best stories I read while I was here at the Women’s World Cup.

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I’ll leave you with this quote from FIFA’s head of Women’s Football, Sarai Bareman:

“We need to be ready, because after this FIFA Women’s World Cup women’s football is going to explode in every single one of your countries We need to be ready for it. There will be millions and millions of women and girls around the world who will sign up to play football for the first time ever after this World Cup. Everyone needs to stand ready, with investment, with infrastructure, with coaches, with referees, with tournaments, member associations, federations, confederations. We need to stand ready to receive that interest and retain it in our game in a sustainable way.”

The view from the press box of the full stands and “THE FINAL” on the scoreboard at Stadium Australia.
Our own Annie M. Peterson, down under at the World Cup!
Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
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By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
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By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson