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Salma Paralluelo celebrates scoring the decisive goal with her teammates. Molly Darlington / Reuters
Spain continue to make history as they reach World Cup semi-finals
World Cup

Spain continue to make history as they reach World Cup semi-finals

2-1 ·

Extra time was required to see off the Netherlands in Wellington in the early hours of Friday morning

Daniel Panero

Friday, 11 August 2023, 11:46

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Spain have made history once again: the team led by Jorge Vilda are through to the semi-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in Wellington in the early hours of Friday morning.

While La Roja were clearly superior to their Dutch counterparts, they nonetheless needed 120 minutes to break down their stubborn resistance.

Having never reached this stage of a major tournament before, Vilda took no chances and the game plan remained unchanged from their thrashing of Switzerland - Spain came out determined to press the Dutch team high up the field, play with speed and enjoy the game.

This was a unique opportunity - and La Roja started strong. Alba Redondo hit the woodwork twice, and just before halftime, Esther had a goal ruled out for a very tight offside.

After the break, Spain continued in the same manner in search of the breakthrough goal. Vilda's players not only managed to keep the Netherlands at bay but also kept star players Lieke Martens, Jackie Groenen and Jill Roord quiet - that is until they received a major scare when Lineth Beerensteyn was brought down in the area, only for the VAR to reverse the decision.

The breakthrough

This was a crucial moment. Spain had been the dominant side for over an hour but were now showing signs of weariness. Vilda turned to his bench and with the introductions of Salma Paralluelo and Ivana, the team regained momentum.

It was then in the 80th minute that a cross from Salma Paralluelo struck Stephanie van der Gragt's hand. A penalty was awarded, and Mariona Caldentey converted, rolling the ball in off the inside of the post with composure.

However, to the dismay of the Spanish players, van der Gragt made amends in added time, levelling the scores with a fierce right-footed shot which took the game to extra time.

More space

In extra time, Spain grew stronger as Vilda made further changes to exploit the spaces with his side's speed. Beerensteyn threatened twice for the Dutch, and then Salma Paralluelo emerged to change the course of the game.

In the 111th minute, the Barcelona forward executed a delightful stepover to deceive her marker before beautifully placing the ball low into the net, in off the post, where it was impossible for the goalkeeper to reach.

It was 5.30am, but Spain erupted in joy as they reached the semi-finals for the first time. This crucial game will be played on Tuesday.

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