Spain has secured their spot in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for the first time ever, thanks to a crucial strike by Salma Paralluelo during extra time, resulting in the Netherlands being eliminated from the tournament.
Earlier in the match, Stefanie van der Gragt managed to score a last-minute equalizer for the 2019 runners-up, leveling the score after conceding a penalty that led to Mariona Caldentey giving La Roja a well-deserved lead. Although anticipated to be a closely contested match, Spain asserted complete dominance during the initial 80 minutes. In fact, if not for some wasteful finishing and the exceptional performance of Daphne van Domselaar, Spain could have easily been ahead by halftime.
This was evident in a particular 17th-minute incident where the Dutch goalkeeper executed an impressive save, deflecting Alba Redondo’s header onto the crossbar, only to witness the same Spaniard miss the rebound from a mere five yards, striking the same post.
Later, La Roja found the net again after 20 minutes, but the goal was invalidated following a VAR review, revealing that Esther Gonzalez was in an offside position when she scored from close range. VAR continued to play a significant role in the match, with referee Stephanie Frappart initially awarding and then rescinding a penalty for the Netherlands in the second half, followed by ultimately awarding a penalty at the opposite end after further consultation with the pitch-side screens.
Caldentey stepped up and capitalized on van der Gragt’s handball, propelling a right-footed shot into the net after a hesitant run-up. It marked a poignant moment for van der Gragt, who would retire from international football after this tournament and was visibly disheartened. However, as the big center-back pressed forward in the Dutch’s frantic search for an equalizer, she achieved redemption with a stoppage-time equalizer, showcasing a finish that any center-forward would be proud of.
The Netherlands experienced a notable transformation, intensifying their efforts to push Spain backward, which led to better chances in extra time, although they were unable to convert them, with Lineth Beerensteyn being particularly active. This left the Dutch susceptible to a counterattack, and Paralluelo capitalized on the opportunity, breaking through on the left flank and delivering an unstoppable winner that struck the far post.
Van der Gragt’s goal marked the 147th scored at Australia & New Zealand 2023, establishing a new record for the Women’s World Cup, surpassing the previous record of 146 goals set at Canada 2015 and matched at France 2019.
“You always dream of a moment like this. We’ve reached the semi-finals for the first time, we’re among the four best in the world, but we’re not going to stop. Today, yes, celebrate, but tomorrow we will prepare for the semi-finals because we want to be in the final.”
Jorge Vilda, Coach of Spain
“Spain put us under a lot of pressure, but we fought. We had two great chances in extra time to secure the victory today. I have mixed feelings. I am very disappointed we did not make it to the semi-finals, but incredibly proud of my team. We aspire to be better. We strive to be the best.”
Andries Jonker, Coach of the Netherlands