France reached their first semi-final at a women’s European Championship on Saturday in Rotherham, England, after beating reigning champions Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.
Eve Perisset’s 102nd-minute penalty was enough to finally overtake Dutch goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar and end a run of three consecutive eliminations in the Euro quarter-finals.
Van Domselaar led a tenacious performance from the Dutch, who were overtaken 33-9 by a dominant French side in the title defense they won on home soil five years ago.
The 22-year-old, who only earned her second cap in the tournament’s opening game when starting goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was injured after just 30 minutes, made ten saves in a virtuoso performance from between the sticks.
Netherlands coach Mark Parsons hailed the performance as “world class” and said it was the best goalkeeping performance he’s seen since Germany’s Nadine Angerer saved two penalties to help her side win the 2013 final.
“Goalkeeper of the tournament, nobody is even close to her,” Parsons told reporters.
And on the rare occasions when Van Domselaar was beaten, Dutch defenders threw their bodies onto the line. Stefanie van der Gragt provided the right ball and parried Melvine Malard’s close-range shot with her knees just inches from goal.
But the resistance was finally broken in the first half of extra time when Kadidiatou Diani brought down Dominique Janssen in the penalty area. At first, referee Ivana Martincic waved the ball on, but after the video assistant referee checked, penalties were awarded.
Van Domselaar saved Perisset from the penalty spot but was unable to deflect the shot from the defender who joined Chelsea in June.
The French completed their lead to stamp their ticket to the semi-finals and a clash with Germany in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, prompting jubilant scenes of joy from players and coach Corinne Diacre.
“I am very proud because this team has set itself a big goal. This team is giving it their all,” Diacre told reporters. “I like that the players gave their all and always worked hard. They stayed true to our game plan.
“We would have liked to have scored earlier, but we were dealing with an incredible Dutch goalkeeper. In terms of our fitness, the teams gave a lot of answers tonight, including defensively.
“We were rewarded for our efforts. We’re here to make history – the players and staff want to make history for themselves and there’s still a way to go,” she added.
In Germany, the French meet a team that has won six consecutive Euro titles between 1995 and 2013. The eight-time champions secured another place in the semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Austria, but it’s uncharted territory for France after a heartbreaking run of early exits.
Match winner Perisset said: “We are very happy because we have always stumbled over the quarterfinals.
“Tonight we managed to overcome this phase. We have shown a very great performance. We are very happy and can now savor this qualification for the semi-finals.”
It was a picture of exhaustion and despair for the Dutch players, many of whom fell to the ground after the final whistle.
The return of prolific Covid-19 star striker Vivianne Miedema looked to bolster the holders, but the Arsenal striker looked isolated throughout as the Dutch were forced to fend off wave after wave of French attacks.
“It was a tough game for her, she had nothing left at the end,” Parsons said of Miedema.
No player has anything left in their tank, in their body. They gave everything. We were hanging by a thread for the first half.
“When we were better in attack and created chances, they were able to counter. But our heroic defense was very, very impressive at almost every moment of the game. Everyone has ascended.”
France or Germany meet the winner of hosts England’s semi-final against Sweden in Sheffield on Tuesday.