Rachel Daly (left) embraces Mary Earps after winning their semi-final.

World Cup final is one more fight for England and Spain stars to overcome

Both squads have endured contrasting trials and tribulations to reach point of legendary status.

IF ENGLAND WIN this World Cup, do not be surprised if there is a very public, and simple, show of solidarity relating to one of the causes that has helped strengthen an already tight bond among the squad.

A statement released – and signed – on the eve of the tournament by captain Millie Bright on behalf of the players confirmed that discussions with the English FA regarding concerns about bonus and commercial structures had been put on hold after reaching an impasse.

There has been no more talk about it as Sarina Wiegman led the Lionesses to this morning’s final with Spain in Sydney.

One issue that did flare up during the group stages which a prominent player was happy to speak about occured when Mary Earps, Fifa’s reigning goalkeeper of the year, revealed that Nike had refused to make her jersey available to purchase for the public.

The Manchester United star went on to explain how she had even offered to pay money out of her own pocket in order to do so but there was no interest from the team’s kit manufacturer.

“I can’t really sugar-coat this in any way, so I am not going to try. It is hugely disappointing and very hurtful… But also, most importantly, the rest of the girls are really disappointed too,” Earps said last month.

“I say that with a wry smile because I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting to feel super passionate about it, but I temperature-checked it at the time with Leah [Wiliamson], Lotte [Wubben-Moy] and a few others and said: ‘Am I overreacting girls? Goalkeeper through and through.’

“And they were like: ‘No, it is absolutely unacceptable. We as a group stand for inclusion and this is the total opposite of what we stand for. Why are we aligning with brands that don’t have inclusion at the centre. Why is it always about the bottom line?’”

So, should England cap off their time Down Under with another historic victory following last summer’s triumph in the European Championships, it would be no shock at all to see all of their players unite by wearing one of Earps’ match jerseys during the celebrations.

Just the small matter of Spain standing in their way, of course; a squad beset by a controversy of their own, but one that has not stopped them from reaching this point for the first time in their history.

In September 2022, 15 players sent separate emails to Luis Rubiales, head of the Spanish FA (RFEF), with an identical message within them. It was a damning indictment of head coach Jorge Vilda’s training methods as well as the treatment of players by coaching/support staff.

It was reported that players cited a lack of professionalism that had an “important effect on my emotional state and by extension my health.”

However, it was not a united front and once the Spanish FA sided with the manager, refusing to even entertain the arguments made, the fractured nature of the revolt led to a very predictable split.

Three influential players did not even send one of the original emails. Alexia Putellas, winner of the 2021 and 2022 Ballon d’Or, captain Irene Paredes and Jennifer Hermoso may have backed their teammates’ stance but they were not going to sacrifice a World Cup for it.

Hermoso was first to come back into the fold in February of this year, Paredes followed suit a month later after discussions with Alvarez and then Putellas joined up following a recovery from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Just three of the 15 were then included by Alvarez for this tournament; Barcelona duo Aitana Bonmatí and Mariona Caldentey, and Ona Batlle, formerly of Manchester United but who is also now a club teammate of the pair.

Another Barca forward, the 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo, is only embarking on what promises to be a thrilling career and her impact off the bench in the semi-final means her battle is simply to try and force her way into the starting XI.

Wiegman must also weigh up bringing Lauren James back into the fold following her two-game suspension, a decision that may have been routine had Ella Toone not scored a stunner in the semi-final win over Australia and linked up so impressively with the sensational Lauren Hemp, who seems to be hitting her peak at just the right time.

The Barcelona influence also extends to the England ranks, with full back Lucy Bronze and midfielder Keira Walsh part of the side which won the Champions League this season.

Now the biggest prize of all awaits.

A World Cup final that is just one more fight for both sets of players to try and overcome.

They’d give the shirt off their backs to triumph.

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