February 27, 2024

Jenni Hermoso capped a remarkable return to the Spain squad by scoring an 89th-minute winner as the world champions beat Italy 1-0 on Friday to make it three wins out of three in the UEFA Nations League.

Hermoso was not selected for Spain’s games in September by coach Montse Tomé to “protect” her after she pressed charges for sexual assault against ousted Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] president Luis Rubiales for his unsolicited kiss after the World Cup final.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

She started on the bench against Italy but came on just after the hour-mark to strike late on, turning home her 52nd goal for her country after Alexia Putellas‘ shot had been saved.

“What better joy than to get back here, to feel good again and to score the goal that gets the win — now I can only smile,” Hermoso told TVE after the game.

Rubiales’ conduct after Spain beat England in the World Cup final has had wide-reaching consequences across Spanish football, with Hermoso becoming the symbol of the women’s national team’s fight against sexism and earning global support.

The CF Pachuca forward had questioned Tomé’s decision to leave her out last month after a criminal case was opened against Rubiales, but she responded on the pitch in Salerno.

“[I thought about] many things [when celebrating], but life sometimes gives you little gifts,” Hermoso added.

“And today I thought about a lot of people who have been behind me during this time. I am happy because thanks to them today I enjoyed football once again.”

The victory keeps Spain top of League A Group 4 with nine points, three clear of second-placed Sweden, who they beat 3-2 last month away from home.

Next up for Tomé’s team in the competition, which also serves as qualification for next summer’s Olympic Games, is a trip to Switzerland in midweek, before they close the group stage against Sweden and Italy in December.

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