Spain defeat Netherlands to qualify for their first ever World Cup semifinal

Spain celebrate their win over the Netherlands

The long-awaited quarterfinals of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off earlier today with a tantalizing game between Spain and the Netherlands. Spain, who qualified for the quarterfinals after a 5-1 demolition of Switzerland in the round of 16, faced off against the Netherlands, who beat South Africa 2-0 to book their spot in the last 8.

The game was dramatic and nothing short of entertaining as both sides fought for a chance to play in the semifinals. The Netherlands, who were finalists in 2019, are no strangers to the World Cup quarterfinals, but for Spain, the quarterfinal is a feat they have never achieved before.

Spain started the game with their usual possession-based football, dominating the game and setting up goal-scoring opportunities for themselves. Time after time, they worked their way around the Netherlands defense and came close to opening the scoring in the 37th minute, when Esther Gonzalez put the ball in the back of the net after being assisted by Alba Redondo. However, after VAR intervention, the goal was canceled as the Spanish forward was in an offside position.

Both teams went into halftime goalless, with Spain being the better team. The second 45 minutes came with a lot of changes compared to the first half. Unlike the first 45 minutes, where they were mostly silent and less threatening, the Netherlands looked revitalized and got themselves into the game a lot more. 

But it was Spain who broke the deadlock in the 81st minute when a cross from Salma Paralluelo struck the arm of Netherlands defender Van De Gragt. The referee awarded Spain a penalty kick after VAR confirmed that the defender’s arm struck the ball in the penalty area. Barcelona forward Mariona Caldentey took the penalty and scored. Her spot kick struck the frame of the goal on the way in.

However, in a game of such magnitude, nothing is certain until the final whistle is blown. Such was the case when the fourth official raised her board to indicate an additional 12 minutes at the end of regulation time. With enough time to respond to Spain’s goal, the Netherland’s defender who was responsible for the penalty stayed up front and got her redemption when a through ball was laid into her path. The defender calmly sent the ball across the face of the goal, past the scrambling Spanish goalkeeper.

An equalizer in additional time, 1-1, game on. The defender who conceded a penalty on the other end had just scored to keep her team alive and drag the game into extra time.

The 30 minutes of extra time kicked off with both teams looking to score a goal and secure a semifinal spot. The Netherlands had the biggest chances in both halves but failed to convert them. And in the 111th minute, after the Netherlands missed a chance to score, Jennifer Hermoso sent Salma Paralluelo through on goal. The Spanish teenager went past her marker and struck the ball cleanly beyond the goalkeeper to score Spain’s second goal of the match. Her shot found the back of the net with little help from the goalpost.

It was the Barcelona forward’s first goal of the tournament, and it could not have arrived at a better time. The match ended 2-1 at the end of extra time, and Paralluelo’s goal was enough to send Spain into the World Cup semifinals for the first time in their history.

Barcelona players Cata Coll, Irene Paredes, Laia Codina, Ona Batlle, Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmati, Salma Paralluelo, and Alexia Putellas all featured in Spain’s historic win. 

All the Barcelona Femeni stars started the game with the exception of Salma Paralluelo and Alexia Putellas, who were brought in as substitutes in the 71st and 100th minutes, respectively.

Spain heads into the semifinal, where they will play against the winners of another quarterfinal match between Japan and Sweden, both of whom play later today.

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