Spain will play for its first Women's World Cup championship after Olga Carmona's goal in the 89th minute lifted La Roja to a 2-1 victory over Sweden in Tuesday’s semifinal in Eden Park, Auckland.
Spain, which overcame last year's near mutiny by its players against coach Jorge Vilda, will play the winner of tournament co-host Australia and England on Sunday in the final in Sydney.
The controversy began when 15 players last September signed a letter complaining about Vilda and the conditions for the the national team. Three of those players were named to the World Cup squad and Vilda a day before the semifinal praised the Spanish federation for its support of him and the women's program.
Now La Roja have a chance to become a first-time World Cup champion. Ranked seventh in the world, Spain's defeat of second-ranked Sweden makes it the highest-ranked team remaining in the tournament.
“This is a historic day,” said Vilda. “We're in the final, that's what we wanted.”
Sweden has now lost in four of five semifinals and will play for a fourth third-place finish.
Carmona's goal capped a flurry of late scoring that saw Sweden tie the game, then Spain win it 90 seconds later.
Salma Paralluelo, the 19-year-old super-sub who also scored the game-winner in Spain's 2-1 extra-time quarterfinals victory over the Netherlands, scored in the 81st minute to break a scoreless game. She gestured for the crowd to cheer, and the crowd thought it was celebrating Spain's decider.
But the celebration was brief. Rebecca Blomqvist tied it for Sweden in the 88th.
Then just 90 seconds later, Carmona beat Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic with the game-winner.
“It was a very tough game. It could've been difficult to recover from their goal, but we've shown that his team can deal with everything.” said Paralluelo. “We deserved this. We took this little step, and now we need that final push."
Spain is making only its third overall World Cup appearance. Four years ago, La Roja advanced to the knockout round but lost to eventual champions the United States.
“Now it's the final. I think we have to do what we've done in every match," said Paralluelo. "We've overcome every challenge and now we face the ultimate challenge, the big one.”