Spain and Sweden are through to the World Cup semi-final after two dramatic knock-out matches.
For the first time ever, Spain is through to the semi-final after super-sub Salma Paralluelo scored in extra time against the Netherlands.
The southern Europeans dominated the game, with more possession and chances than their Dutch counterparts. Netherlands goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar was forced to make a fingertip save early in the match, pushing Alba Redondo’s shot into the crossbar, her follow-up shot hitting the post again a second later. Spain’s Esther Gonzalez scored an offside goal late in the first half, with the Netherlands feeling the pressure as they entered the sheds at half-time.
Spain thought they’d won the game after Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt was penalised for a handball in the box in the second half. With less than 10 minutes of regular time remaining, Mariona Caldentey stepped up to the spot to put Spain in front 1-0.
But van der Gragt was determined to redeem herself. The defender struck the equaliser in the first minute of injury time after being pushed to a more offensive position. Her powerful shot flew into the bottom corner, levelling the score lines once again.
But it was 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo who ended up making the difference. In the 111th minute of extra time, the super-sub cut the ball onto her left foot, her shot ricocheting off the post and into the back of the net, winning the game for her team.
Paralluelo has become Spain’s youngest every World Cup goal scorer in the chaotic match, the final score line 2-1 after 120 minutes of football.
Friday’s second quarter-final match-up saw Japan take on Sweden.
After 32 minutes of play, central defender Amanda Ilestedt scored her fourth goal of the tournament, cleaning up the scraps after a free kick and putting Sweden in front 1-0.
Sweden scored again in the 51st minute from the spot, the penalty awarded after a handball in the box. Filippa Angeldal expertly took the kick, sending Japanese keeper Ayaka Yamashita the wrong way and doubling Sweden’s lead.
Despite being on the losing side, Yamashita played an incredible game between the posts. She was able to keep Japan’s in the game by millimetres with a number of fingertip saves across the match.
After tangle between Madelen Janogy and Riko Ueki in the 75th minute, Japan was awarded a spot-kick of their own. Ueki struck the penalty with magnificent force, but the ball hit the underside of the crossbar, bounced to the ground, and was deemed by VAR to have not crossed the line.
Japan had more chances in the second half as their young team began to build momentum. A kerfuffle in the box in the 87th minute saw the ball hit the crossbar, rebound off Zećira Mušović’s head, bounce from the post, past the goal line and remarkably roll away from danger.
A a minute later, substitute Honoka Hayashi capitalised on a missed clearance from the Swedes; Kiko Seike’s low cross couldn’t be cleared, the ball dropping perfectly for Hayashi to score her first goal in international football.
But it wasn’t enough for the Japanese. With the final score line 2-1, the 2011 champions were sent home, with Sweden progressing.
The World Cup semi-final will see Spain take on Sweden next Tuesday in New Zealand, the winner of this match buying themselves a ticket to the final. With Japan now also knocked out of the tournament, all previous World Cup winners have been sent home… the silverware is anyone’s for the taking.