Spain celebrates World Cup triumph with big win before record crowd

Spain's Women's World Cup champions were given a rapturous reception as they played for the first time at home after their triumph, thrashing Switzerland 5-0 in the UEFA Nations League on Tuesday in front of a record crowd.

Captains Alexia Putellas and Irene Paredes presented the trophy to jubilant supporters in Cordoba and the squad sported wristbands reading "It's Over" -- a nod to the charge the players are leading in the protracted battle for equality.

La Roja's triumph in Australia and New Zealand in August was regrettably tarnished by the behavior of former Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales, who forcibly kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony.

The disgraced chief resigned, while controversial coach Jorge Vilda was sacked, but dozens of internationals stayed on strike, demanding further federation improvements.

Eventually the majority of new coach Montse Tome's squad agreed to participate in the Nations League matches, despite being called up against their will, as the Spanish government intervened to broker a deal between the federation and the players. Hermoso was not included in the squad, which Tome said was to "protect" her.

Spain beat Sweden 3-2 in Gothenburg last Friday and then crushed Switzerland to take a stranglehold on top spot in League A Group 4.

The two eventual Nations League finalists qualify for next year's Olympic Games in Paris.

Spain earned a new record home attendance of 14,194 supporters, albeit a far cry from the 76,000 in Sydney that watched their first World Cup triumph.

"We really wanted to celebrate the World Cup with the fans, we're proud to see the stadium full today," said Bonmati.

Various players spoke of the anxiety and stress they suffered last week before the win over Sweden, as well as the tiredness and sleepless nights they accumulated after the World Cup, and before a deal was reached.

Aitana Bonmati, the UEFA Women's Player of the Year, said the situation was "calming down" before the visit of Switzerland and players were glad to focus on soccer once again.

There was a party atmosphere at the Nuevo Arcangel Stadium, with chants of "champions of the world" ringing out around the ground.

However, the team's fight against sexism remained in the spotlight, as players from both sides held up a banner with the "It's Over" slogan, used by Hermoso and other stars in the wake of the Rubiales incident.

"Our fight is the global fight," the banner continued.

World Cup runner-up England, Australia and other national teams have sent messages of support to the Spain squad over the past month, encouraging their protest action.

Bonmati led Spain with two goals, while Lucia Garcia, Inma Gabarro and Maite Oroz added goals.

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England boss Sarina Wiegman endured a painful return to the Netherlands as Dutch substitute Renate Jansen clinched a dramatic 2-1 victory in Tuesday's UEFA Nations League clash.

Jansen netted with a spectacular strike in the 90th minute in Utrecht after Lieke Martens' first-half opener for the hosts was cancelled out by Alessia Russo in the 64th minute.

Replays suggested Danielle Van de Donkhad been offside in the build-up to Martens' goal but, with no VAR in use, the effort was allowed to stand.

Wiegman guided England to European Championship glory last year before a painful World Cup final defeat against Spain in August.

The 53-year-old Dutchwoman did the same with the Netherlands, whoichwon the 2017 Euros under her leadership before losing the 2019 World Cup final.

The result, only England's third loss under Wiegman, leaves both the Lionesses and the Netherlands on three points in Group A1.

League A:
Group 1: Belgium 4 points; Netherlands 3; England 3; Scotland 1.
Group 2: France 6 points; Portugal 3; Austria 1; Norway 1.
Group 3: Denmark 6 points; Germany 3; Iceland 3; Wales 0.
Group 4: Spain 6 points; Sweden 3; Italy 3; Switzerland 0.


© Agence France-Presse

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