Australia beat France on penalties to reach Women’s World Cup semi-finals

Australia beat France on penalties to reach Women’s World Cup semi-finals

Co-hosts Australia reached the Women’s World Cup semi-finals for the first time as they beat France in an incredible penalty shoot-out at Brisbane Stadium.

Following a goalless 120 minutes, the Matildas triumphed 7-6 in a shoot-out which defied belief with its dramatic twists.

Cortnee Vine scored the winning spot-kick for Australia, after Vicki Becho had struck the post for France.

Australia keeper Mackenzie Arnold made a total of four saves in the shoot-out – including twice from Kenza Dali, having moved off the line for the first stop, leading to a retake.

Arnold herself had the opportunity to score the winning penalty as the fifth taker for Australia, after saving from Eve Perisset, but struck the post as nearly 50,000 Australians inside the stadium went through every emotion imaginable.

But it is the hosts who march on, reaching their first ever Women’s World Cup semi-final.

Australia will play England or Colombia at Stadium Australia in Sydney on 16 August at 11.00 BST.

Australia were roared on by a capacity crowd who created a lively atmosphere at Brisbane Stadium, but having fallen at the quarter-final stage in three previous World Cups, initially they looked more cowed by the pressure than invigorated by it.

But they grew into the game and should have led four minutes before the interval.

France keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin – who looked a bag of nerves all evening – failed to command a loose ball in the box, allowing Van Egmond to nip in and square to Mary Fowler, who seemed certain to tuck the chance away.

Peyraud-Magnin was only bailed out by covering defender Elisa de Almeida, whose last-gasp sliding block was one of the finest pieces of defending seen at this World Cup so far.

Those nerves from Peyraud-Magnin extended into the second half, as she miscued a clearance straight to Fowler shortly after the break and was again helped out by a defender blocking the resulting shot.

Australia manager Tony Gustavsson had said he would only start Sam Kerr if she was definitely fit to play the full match, and duly kept back the Matildas talisman to make an impact in the latter stages.

On 55 minutes, he pulled the Kerr lever, activating an ear-splitting roar from the home fans. The 29-year-old Chelsea striker was immediately into the action, driving forwards to set up a move which resulted in Raso testing Peyraud-Magnin from range.

Australia, newly fired up, applied heavy pressure to the French goal but could not find a breakthrough in regulation time, making this the first in 31 Women’s World Cup matches featuring Australia to be goalless after 90 minutes.

It was also goalless after 120 minutes – leading to a shoot-out which will go down in football history and Australian folklore.

They are the first hosts to reach the Women’s World Cup semi-finals since USA in 2003 – and could be the first since the Americans in 1999 to triumph on home soil.

France had their own home World Cup spoiled in the quarter-finals four years ago as they lost to eventual champions the USA, and they revelled in the role of party poopers in the opening minutes.

Kadi Diani was furious when she shot wide after eight minutes, convinced she was held back and fouled by Australia defender Alanna Kennedy. She had a point.

Their best first-half chance fell to defender Maelle Lakrar, brought into the starting XI in place of Chelsea’s Perisset.

Eugenie le Sommer dragged a shot across goal and Lakrar somehow squirted the ball over the top from three yards.

Lakrar was also denied by Arnold, her snap shot on the turn following an uncleared corner well palmed away by the West Ham stopper.

They failed to press home their advantage while they had it, allowing Australia to gain the ascendancy – especially following the introduction of Kerr.

There were shouts for a penalty with 10 minutes remaining as Lakrar grabbed a handful of Caitlin Foord’s shirt, only for referee Maria Carvajal to wave them away.

As nerves grew for both teams the play became scrappier, with France thinking they had an extra-time winner when Alanna Kennedy headed into her own net from a corner, only for it to be disallowed as Renard had fouled an opponent.

France had the clearest extra-time opportunities, Arnold making a great diving save from Becho’s drive before Steph Catley hacked another effort off the line.

Ultimately penalties were required – with France manager Herve Renard dramatically sending on sub keeper Solene Durand in place of Peyraud-Magnin for the spot-kicks.

Durand did her job, saving from both Catley and Clare Hunt – the latter with a phenomenal one-handed stop when a goal would have sent Australia through.

But subsequently Becko missed, Vine scored and France fell short, exiting at the last eight for the second successive World Cup.

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