In a thrilling encounter that kept fans on the edge of their seats, Spain secured a spot in the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup by defeating the Netherlands 2-1 in extra time. The match, played in Wellington, witnessed a display of relentless determination and exhilarating football from both sides, with 19-year-old Salma Paralluelo emerging as the hero for Spain with an extraordinary extra-time winner.
The tension-filled 90 minutes saw a series of dramatic events unfold on the field. Mariona Caldentey ignited Spain’s hopes with an 81st-minute penalty goal, only for Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt to deliver an equalizer in added time, setting the stage for an intense battle.
As the quarter-final appeared destined for a penalty shootout, Salma Paralluelo, who came off the bench, showcased her brilliance with a solo finish that secured Spain’s triumphant passage to the semifinals. The victory sets up an enticing semi-final clash against either Japan or Sweden in Auckland next Tuesday, while the Netherlands’ journey in the tournament comes to an end, despite being finalists four years ago.
Throughout the match, Spain showcased their attacking prowess, dominating large portions of the game. The contest burst into life during the latter stages of normal time, highlighted by Paralluelo’s exceptional winner. This performance comes as a rebound from Spain’s initial setback of a 4-0 loss to Japan in the group stage, after which they regained momentum with a resounding victory over Switzerland in the round of 16.
Spain’s dominance was evident, hitting the post twice and even having a goal disallowed for offside. Meanwhile, the Dutch team experienced their own share of challenges, with VAR decisions adding another layer of complexity to the match. Amidst these dynamics, both teams fought fiercely for control of the game.
The first half saw Spain’s relentless attacking efforts, launching 11 attempts on goal without reply. The Dutch side found relief in the form of the woodwork, as goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar thwarted Alba Redondo’s header and subsequent follow-up, ensuring the ball struck the post on two occasions in quick succession.
The match witnessed key VAR interventions, influencing pivotal moments. A potential penalty awarded to the Dutch was overturned following VAR consultation, much to the animated dismay of the players involved. The seesaw nature of the game reached its peak when Spain took the lead in the 81st minute through Caldentey’s expertly taken penalty after Paralluelo’s cross met Van der Gragt’s outstretched hand inside the penalty box.
However, the Dutch demonstrated resilience and determination, as Van der Gragt quickly redeemed herself with a goal in the first minute of stoppage time, leveling the score. Extra time provided both sides with ample opportunities, with the Netherlands coming close twice through Lineth Beerensteyn before conceding the decisive goal that sent Spain to the semifinals.
The victory was a testament to Spain’s tenacity and ability to rise to the occasion. With the World Player of the Year, Alexia Putellas, returning from injury during extra time, Spain exhibited a unified effort that showcased their depth and determination. However, the triumph came at a cost, as defender Oihane Hernandez received a yellow card, ruling her out for the forthcoming semi final clash.
As the Women’s World Cup journey progresses, Spain’s remarkable triumph over the Netherlands stands as a testament to the unpredictable nature of football and the unwavering spirit of the athletes. The upcoming semifinal promises to be another spectacle, pitting Spain against a formidable opponent, as the teams vie for a chance to etch their names in the tournament’s history.