Alessia Russo of England (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the 1-3 goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final soccer match between Australia and England in Sydney. | DAN HIMBRECHTS

I’m in a little dilemma, my country of birth is going to play in the Women’s World Cup Final against the country that has been my home for the last 34 years. Where will my allegiance fall? Well more about that later.

The Women’s World Cup had gone a little under the radar for me. Yes I was aware of it but it took me until the last 16 started that I began to take a real interest into how the England Lionesses were doing. Maybe it has been the time difference in Australia with most games being on in the morning that was the problem. We were in the car going back to Luton airport when England were playing Nigeria in the last 16. We were listening on the car radio and the game was 0-0 and was heading for penalties. England were hanging on a little as they were down to 10 players after Lauren James had got herself sent off. We arrived at the car hire drop-off point when the penalties were about to begin. The boys and my wife said shall we stay and listen and I said no let’s get to the airport. As soon as I got out of the car though I turned on the radio on my phone and we all listened intently to the penalty shootout. We were on the bus to the airport when Chloe Kelly hit the winning penalty to send England through.

Now they had my attention with a quarter final to come against Colombia. Remember this was the England team minus a few injuries and retirements that had won the European Championships just last year. Despite going a goal down to Colombia they came back to win 2-1 and book a semi-final place against the hosts Australia. Up to this point, apart from gubbing China 6-1 they hadn’t really set this World Cup alight but they’d clawed their way to the last four. Australia, or the Matildas as they’re better known, are of course the host nation and one of the pre-tournament favourites. You couldn’t find an Aussie anywhere who wasn’t predicting them making it into the final, particularly when their star player Sam Kerr who had been injured was available to play a full game. Well England played their game of the tournament and despite Kerr scoring, the Matildas were waltzing (sorry) out of the competition with England’s three goals coming from Toone, Hemp and Russo.

FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final - Spain vs Sweden

So what of their opponents? Well nobody gave Spain a prayer going into the tournament. This was a team only in their third ever World Cup whose coach Jorge Vilda had a very public falling-out with his squad just a year ago. Fifteen of their most experienced players protested to their governing body the RFEF.

There was a call for a change in the conditions they were operating under through Vilda’s management, who was said to have created an environment of control, anxiety and stress that had emotionally impacted the squad.

He allegedly forced players to leave the doors to their hotel rooms open at night so he could verify they were in their rooms. He was said to have also checked the contents of their bags if they left and returned.

This alleged behaviour prompted the 15 players to protest, to which possibly a little surprisingly the federation rebuffed their request to sack the coach and stuck with him. On the eve of the tournament, three of the 15 players, Battle, Bonmati and Caldentey, eventually relented, choosing to chase World Cup glory but sowing a rift with some of their teammates.

Not really great preparation for the biggest tournament in the World. In the group stages they beat Costa Rica 3-0 and Zambia 5-0 but were thrashed 4-0 by Japan to finish runners up in their group. In the last 16 they disposed of Switzerland 5-1 followed by a narrow 2-1 extra time victory over the Netherlands. Their semi-final with Sweden didn’t really get going until the last 10 minutes. Paralluelo scoring in the 81st minute with Sweden equalising in the 88th minute and the match looked to be heading into extra-time. However a spectacular shot from Carmona just a minute later booked their final place. Although the player revolt hasn’t helped their preparations, they have gone to the tournament with a very young squad. They’ve never previously won a knockout stage game but just look at what those young players have achieved before. They are reigning world champions at U-20 level, courtesy of a 3-1 defeat of Japan in Costa Rica in 2022, they are also two-time reigning U-17 world champions, having beaten Colombia 1-0 in the final at India 2022 and Mexico 1-0 in the showpiece match at Uruguay 2018.

More interesting for me is that two of their players come from Mallorca. The goalkeeper Cata Coll was born in Portol. She played previously for Sant Marcel, Cide, Marratxí and Collerense here on the island and was bought by Barcelona and sent out on loan to Sevilla. She’s now back in Barcelona and after a bad injury is now Spain’s first choice. Whilst here on the island she was training at the Pablo Roca goalkeeping school where my youngest son Jude goes. She also trained with Jude a few times too.

Forward Mariona Caldenty was born in Felanitx where she began her career. That was followed by Cide, Collerense and in 2014 she joined Barcelona.

Hopefully they inspire more girls on the island to play football in what is becoming a thriving sport here.

So this Sunday at 12 midday is the final. It’s the Lionesses versus La Roja. Who am I supporting? England of course!

Take care everybody and enjoy your weekend!