GOTHENBURG, Sweden (AP) — Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s team got back to being soccer players on Friday.
A 3-2 victory over Sweden in Gothenburg — secured by a penalty with virtually the last kick of the game — was Spain’s first match since capturing the biggest prize in women’s soccer last month in Australia. That achievement ultimately was tarnished by a sexism scandal sparked by the former Spanish soccer federation president, Luis Rubiales, kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the World Cup awards ceremony.
The fallout has been far-reaching, remaining high up the global news agenda and continuing right up to the eve of the match when a deal was reached between the players, federation and government mediators that Spain's players believe will lead to real reform inside the beleaguered federation and mark a turning point in the fight for equality.
To get to that point, the players were engaged in through-the-night meetings and constant telephone calls, all the while staying under massive external scrutiny that hardly provided the best preparation for a Nations League match against the world’s top-ranked team.
Still, the Spanish showed the kind of battling qualities that have characterized the off-the-field fight against their federation by coming from behind at the Ullevi stadium, clinching the win when Mariona Caldentey converted a spot kick in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time. The final whistle blew immediately after the resulting restart.
A 23rd-minute opener by captain Magdalena Eriksson gave Sweden the lead but Spain replied through Athenea del Castillo's equalizer in the 37th, when her shot from outside the area squirmed out of goalkeeper Zećira Mušović’s grasp and bounced into the net.
Spain went ahead in the 77th through Eva Navarro, who curled a left-footed shot into the top corner, only for Lina Hurtig to make it 2-2 five minutes later.
The penalty was awarded with seconds left of added-on time when Amanda Ilestedt pulled back Amaiur Sarriegi in the area, a foul that earned the center back a red card.
Before the match, players from both teams got together and held aloft a banner containing the words “Se Acabo” — Spanish for “this is over” – followed by “Our fight is the global fight.” There was applause around the stadium.
The “Se Acabo” slogan was started by Hermoso’s teammate Alexia Putellas, Spain's star player, and has been a rallying call amid the scandal.
Putellas was captain for the game in a Spain team containing seven starters from the World Cup final against England. Hermoso wasn’t one of them because she wasn’t called up by newly appointed Spain coach Montse Tomé “as a way to protect her,” in the words of Tomé.
Spain returns to action on Tuesday against Switzerland in its first home game as world champion.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer