France reached the European Championships semi-finals for the first time with an extra-time win over the Netherlands. Eve Périsset’s penalty saw her side win 1-0 to meet Germany in Milton Keynes on Wednesday.
The anticipation was palpable as France and the Netherlands walked out at the New York Stadium in Rotherham. For this quarter-final had all the makings of one of those classic contests.
The French had set this tournament light with their electrifying attack. The weight of history was on their shoulders, however, having never before progressed past the last eight. Despite five changes from Corinne Diacre, Melvine Malard retained her spot up front, having impressed in her side’s 1-1 draw with Iceland.
The Dutch, accompanied by their all-singing, all-dancing fans, had struggled defensively but possessed experience. They received a welcome boost with the return of the leading scorer, Vivianne Miedema, from Covid, providing some much-needed leadership to an injury-laden squad.
Despite Mark Parsons calling for his Dutch side to “turn that switch” early on, it was France who predictably started quickly. If not for Daphne van Domselaar, so impressive in the Netherlands’ goal, and the body of Stefanie van der Gragt, they would have been at least two or three up by the break.
It was one-way traffic for much of the first 45 minutes, with the Netherlands facing wave after wave of attack. Grace Geyoro tested Van Domselaar at the near post before Kadidiatou Diani was allowed to glide into the box only to see her effort stopped. A sliced clearance from Dominique Janssen required her keeper to be a full stretch before even the woodwork got involved, keeping out Delphine Cascarino’s effort from distance.
Diani, with her exhilarating speed down the French right, was a constant thorn in the side of Kerstin Casparij. She instigated France’s best chance of many, setting up Malard in the box to be denied only by the last-ditch defending of Van der Gragt. Somehow, it remained goalless at the break.
France were yet to score in the second half and it seemed to play on their minds as they returned to the pitch. That and the introduction of Jill Roord at the break eased the pressure for the Dutch as they immediately became more productive up the field. Miedema had the Netherlands’ best chance, volleying a corner over at the near post.
The French still threatened, however, with the substitute Selma Bacha increasing their energy levels. The much talked about 21-year-old immediately caused issues for the Dutch with only some continued inspired goalkeeping keeping them out. Wendie Renard had one of her trademark headers cleared off the line before Bacha once more stung Van Domselaar’s gloves.
France continued their domination of chances but their struggles in front of goal continued. As normal time petered out their frustration was clear.
The decisive moment came in the 100th minute when a VAR check for a Dominique Janssen fouled saw the referee point to the spot. Périsset stepped up to send her side through to the semi-finals.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism