Spain's defender Rocio Galvez is congratuled by President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales (R) next to Spain's Jennifer Hermoso after winning the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup final football match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 20, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Sydney: Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso defended Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales after he came under fire for kissing her on the lips following the team's Women's World Cup victory on Sunday.

Rubiales was criticised on social media for his celebration with Hermoso during the medal ceremony after Spain beat England 1-0 to lift the trophy for the first time.

"I didn't like it," said Spain midfielder Hermoso on an Instagram live stream after the game, although she was laughing as she spoke.

Later Hermoso said the moment was a "natural gesture of affection".

"It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings," said Hermoso, in comments passed to AFP by the Spanish federation.

"The president and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has been outstanding and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.

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"A gesture of friendship and gratitude cannot be gone over so much, we have won a World Cup and we are not going to deviate from what is important."

Spain's World Cup charge was tainted by controversy over both the federation and coach Jorge Vilda's relationship with the players.

Several top stars formed part of a 15-player protest against the national team ahead of the tournament, although many relented in their stance and three were included in the squad.

Rubiales was a firm backer of Vilda and the RFEF was criticised for their strong position against the 15 protesting players.

Hermoso, who plays for Mexican side Pachuca, missed a penalty in the match but Spain held on to win through Olga Carmona's first-half strike.

"We played how we wanted to play and we won a World Cup," an emotional Hermoso told Spanish broadcasters La 1, in tears after the game.