No one expected Spain to be anywhere near a World Cup final this year – especially after their pre-tournament drama.
But a whirlwind 10-minute period against Sweden including three goals and a winner in the 89th minute has seen them beat the odds and reach the final.
Carmona scored a last-minute winner for Spain against Sweden to send them to the World Cup finalRex
It is quite the turnaround from a turbulent year in the Spanish campGetty
Swedish hearts were broken when Spanish captain Olga Carmona bagged a late strike to spark celebration from fans at Eden Park in Australia on Tuesday morning.
It was just over two weeks ago when Spain were crushed 4-0 by Japan in the group stage.
But they staved off elimination at the group stage and have since claimed big wins over Switzerland and the Netherlands in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively before knocking Sweden out.
It means that La Roja are one step away from winning the World Cup and they will face either Australia or England in the final.
It is a phenomenal achievement considering that there has been outright mutiny over coach Jorge Vilda’s methods.
It led to 15 players demanding improvements in working conditions because they believed their time with the national team had affected their emotional and physical health.
After crashing out of Euro 2022 at the quarter-finals to eventual winners England, members of the first-team had requested a change in direction, though deny asking for Vilda to be sacked.
Vilda, who has the backing of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), remained defiant and insisted he was not going anywhere, prompting one of the team captains Irene Paredes to respond.
Vilda had come under fire from his own squadGetty
“We believe that there are internal aspects that they can change,” she said in August 2022.
“We would have liked it to have stayed inside but there are things that have been leaked that are not true. There are times when things have to be said, even if it is not pleasant, for them to change.”
Tensions continued to boil over when the RFEF demanded the players ask for forgiveness and weeks later, 15 players revealed that they no longer wanted to be considered for selection for the national side.
A collective statement read: “We requested in our communication sent to the RFEF not to be summoned until situations that affect our emotional and personal state, our performance and, consequently, the results of the Selection and that could lead to undesirable injuries are reversed.”
It led to 15 players rebelling against the international side and asking not to be selectedGetty
Star player Alexia Putellas, who was recovering from injury at the time, pledged her support to her teammates, though she would not join in with the protest.
The RFEF responded furiously, hitting out at the 15 rebels by saying their behaviour was “far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport” and that they would pick “only committed footballers” in the future.
After announcing his international squad in November 2022, Vilda also came out swinging, saying: “I think it’s a ridicule on a global scale. This mess is hurting Spanish football. It’s a worldwide embarrassment.”
The mutiny continued into this summer, though some backed down, with three members of the 15 rebels being selected for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Spain players who rebelled
Player – Club
Ainhoa Vicente (Atletico Madrid)
Lola Gallardo (Atletico Madrid)
Sandra Panos (Barcelona)
Mapi Leon (Barcelona)
Claudia Pina (Barcelona)
Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona)
Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona)
Patri Guijarro (Barcelona)
Andrea Pereira (Club America)
Leila Ouahabi (Manchester City)
Laia Aleixandri (Manchester City)
Lucia Garcia (Manchester United)
Ona Batlle (Barcelona)
Amaiur Sarriegi (Real Sociedad)
Nerea Eizagirre (Real Sociedad)
Former Manchester United star Ona Batlle is one of them, as well as Mariona Caldentey and Aitana Bonmati, while Putellas was also called up to the squad.
Among the high-profile players not called up include Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro and Sandra Panos but a new-look squad has powered on in stunning fashion.
It makes Spain’s route to the final all that more incredible, considering that a significant chunk of the senior squad has been left at home.
But those who have continued have done their nation proud and are just 90 minutes away from history.