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Spain defeated England to lift its first ever Women's World Cup trophy

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The Women's World Cup has a new reigning champion. Spain defeated England to claim the title after a tense and dramatic 90 minutes in Sydney. And the game was decided by the slimmest of margins - final score, one goal to zero. Spain fought hard for this victory, but it's not without controversy. For more on that, we go to James Badcock, a reporter based in Madrid. Hi, James.

JAMES BADCOCK: Hi there.

RASCOE: So first of all, my condolences - I know you were rooting for England. But I got to ask you, what's the mood like in Madrid?

BADCOCK: Well, the mood where I am right now is pretty good. I'm just outside the WiZink Center where 6,000 people were screaming in absolute euphoria at Spain's win in the final. And a lot of them are hanging around here bent on celebrating this win. But it's kind of interesting. If I walk a couple of blocks, as I did just a minute ago, to the main drag where there's quite a lot of traffic, there's not a lot of beeping. There's not - there's a few cars going past with a flag out and celebrating. But I think it's nothing like - and it's nothing like what I remember from seeing, for example, when the men won the World Cup in 2010, when, you know, everyone knew that was happening and the whole city and the whole country, not just Madrid, was just one complete party.

RASCOE: It was a nail-biter to the end, though. What stood out for you in this final?

BADCOCK: In terms of the game, I think Spain were - had so much poise in possession. England were trying to come back into the game, obviously, and trying to be aggressive. But Spain - I think they cooled it down very well when they - they kept the ball a lot. This Spain women's team, as has been the case with the men's team and the success they had before, is based very much on possession football. They look a little bit like FC Barcelona, if people know about league football.

So both the men's and women's teams of Barcelona play this possession football. They keep the ball. They knock it around. And, you know, the best player of the tournament was Aitana Bonmati, who is Barcelona's - one of Barcelona's top players. So I think that's what stands out for me. It's this style that Spain has. And now the women have done it just in the same way as the men, with possession and with elegance.

RASCOE: There's been so much controversy over the last year surrounding Spain's coaching staff. Several players say the staff is unprofessional, that the team hasn't been prepared for matches. There's been complaints about travel and accommodations. What happens to those complaints now that the team has captured the World Cup trophy?

BADCOCK: Yeah, it's very interesting because they weren't really resolved. I mean, there were 15 players, as you mentioned - there was a bit of a mutiny. Fifteen players said they weren't going to go back to the team unless things changed. Things didn't - some things changed a little, apparently, but not much. And only three of them eventually did decide to return.

So the power struggle was won very much by the federation and by the existing coach, who will now feel very vindicated. I mean, you can hardly say that this is an unprofessional setup if they've won the World Cup. So I think if everybody's smart here, they'll realize that they can all win because Spain has won the World Cup. It's the first time the women's football has really got any visibility in Spain. So I think if they're all smart, they'll be leveraging that to grow the women's game. And also the players perhaps will feel they now have more player power and they can start punching at the same weight maybe as the Spanish men.

RASCOE: That's James Badcock reporting from Madrid. Thank you so much.

BADCOCK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.