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  • Writer's pictureBethany Barker

Quarter Final recap: First-time winner pending

This weekend saw the conclusion of the quarter-finals and has left us with a solid unpredictable final four, here is a look back at the games which have helped changed World Cup history and cement the women's game across the world.

Monday 14th August 2023


Spain secures a win over previous semi-finalists:

The first quarter-final game saw Spanish teenager- Salma Paralluelo (19)- come off the bench to score the winner in the 111th minute after keeping her calm in the box to strike the ball in off the left post, against the Netherlands, 2019 semifinalists. This means that Spain is in the Women's World Cup semi-finals for the first time and Paralluelo becomes Spain's youngest goal scorer at a Women's World Cup. Speaking after the match Paralluelo said, "It means everything for me, it was a unique moment, great euphoria... I'm extremely happy." after she changed the outcome of the game which was seemingly controlled by VAR, to begin with.

In the 37th minute, Esther Gonzalez seemed to have put Spain in the lead when her goal was disallowed for an offside ruling; then frustratingly for the Dutch, the referee overturned her decision for a penalty- in which Irene Paredes barged Beerensteyn to the ground- in the second half. VAR then again came into play for Van der Gragt's handball, resulting in a Spanish penalty.

The Netherlands defender, Van der Gragt, who is retiring from professional football this summer and earned her 106th cap in this quarter-final match, was given a more than dramatic way to end her career, "It's hard now. We had the chance in extra time and we didn't score, they had one chance and they scored. That's football."

After allowing a penalty for handball she was able to create an equaliser in the 12th minute of injury time when she found herself through on the Spanish goal, firing a perfect cross into the net. However, the Dutch side were ultimately outplayed throughout leading them to miss out on the final four with Spain holding 62% possession in front of the 32,021 in attendance in Wellington.

Sweden secures the win for a first-time winner:

After an impressive performance in the round of sixteen- which resulted in reigning champions USA being knocked out- Sweden once again ruled out previous winners, by performing magnificently against Japan, 2011 champions. Japan- who were seen as title contenders- fell behind after Amanda Ilestedt's and Filippa Angeldahl's goals which doubled the Swedish side's lead. In the 87th minute, West Ham's Honoka Hayashi pulled a goal back to try to bring the game back adding to Japan's 14 previous goals in their four games.

Speaking after the game, Peter Gerhardsson- Sweden's manager- stated he was delighted to secure the team's progress. “It’s wonderful, obviously. The game had everything. In terms of performance, we had our best of the tournament. It got very exciting.”

However, Sweden saw the game out in front of a 43,217 crowd in Auckland, as Japan struggled to test Sweden's goalkeeper, Zecira Musovic, as the European team moved forward in the tournament; this will be the first time they are in reach of the final since 2003 where they lost to Germany in the final.

Penalty drama for the Matildas:

Saturday's quarter-finals started with co-hosts Australia reaching the semi-finals for the first time by beating France in a tense penalty shootout. After a goalless 120 minutes, the Matildas became victorious in a 7-6 penalty win which saw Cortnee Vine score the winning spot-kick in a dramatic penalty shootout that also saw Australia keeper Mackenzie Arnold make four saves including two from Kenza Dali after moving off the line leading to a retake.

The game itself was a tense 120 minutes and it could have seen Australia lead from the 4th minute as the French goalkeeper, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, started off with a nervous performance and failed to collect a loose ball in the box which allowed Mary Fowler to ultimately take a chance on goal. But this chance was prevented by covering the defender Elisa de Almeida who slid in to create an impressive defensive performance. The nervous energy from the French extended into the second half as another miscue clearance was again helped out by a defensive block. Australia continued to apply heavy pressure on the French but could not find the breakthrough goal which made it the first Australian match to end goalless.

This win ensures Australia are the first hosts to reach the semi-finals since the USA in 2003 and if successful in the next round they could be the first since the USA in 1966 to win on home soil. It also breaks TV viewer records as the tense game was watched by more than 7.2 million people through access to Channel Seven; these ratings have been compared to the 2000 Olympic viewing ratings when more than 8 million tuned in to Cathy Freeman’s 400 metres gold medal race; meaning this game is likely to be the highest since Freeman’s race.

Lionesses Roar into the semi-finals:

England was the last team to secure their place in the semi-final as they came from behind against a more dangerous Colombian side. The European champions had to put on a largely defensive and composed performance after Mary Earps was beaten by a quick-thinking chance in the first half. In the 45+6th minute, Lauren Hemp created the equaliser as Colombia's goalkeeper Catalina Perez dropped the ball in a gather in the six-yard area under pressure from Alessia Russo. The winning goal then came in the 63rd minute by Arsenal's recent signing, Russo, who worked tirelessly to earn her the opportunity to score her second World Cup goal, through a deflection.

Sarina Wiegman stated, "These are big games and it has some physicality too - for them and for us. That's part of the game and we dealt with it really well. They got through it really well and got the win over the line. That was what we were trying to do and fortunately, we did that."

In front of the 75,784 in attendance, Mary Earps was once again making crucial saves to make up for the slight error in the first half leading to her conceding England's first goal in open play- the other only coming from China's penalty. Wednesday's semi-final against Australia will be the Lionesses' third consecutive World Cup semi-final after defeats by the USA in 2019 and Japan in 2015 however, they will be looking to get into their first final.

The Final Four:

  • Sweden- 3rd in the world

  • England- 4th in the world

  • Spain- 6th in the world

  • Australia- 10th in world

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