Substitute Salma Paralluelo scored an extra-time winner to lift Spain to a nervy 2-1 victory over the Netherlands and into the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
The 19-year-old Barcelona winger broke the 1-1 deadlock on Friday when she latched onto a through ball, cut a Dutch defender inside and out and unleashed a shot that clanged off the post into the net.
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“It’s important for everyone,” Paralluelo said after the game. “We have succeeded. We have fought until the end. We have believed.”
The sixth-ranked La Roja, who had not advanced past the round of 16 in two previous two World Cup appearances, will face either Japan or Sweden for a place in the final in Auckland on Tuesday.
All the goals came late in a tight game with Mariona Caldentey scoring Spain’s first from a penalty kick in the 81st minute after Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt had handled the ball inside the box.
Van der Gragt, in her final match before retirement, earned some redemption when she equalised in the 91st minute to send the contest to extra time in front of 32,021 fans at Wellington Regional Stadium.
The ninth-ranked Dutch, who were runners-up to the United States four years ago in France, became the latest tournament favourites eliminated in a tournament full of upsets, with the US, Germany, Canada and Brazil already gone.
“It’s hard now,” van der Gragt said after the game.
“We had the chance in extra time and we didn’t score, they had one chance and they scored. That’s football.”
The Dutch had goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar to thank for not falling behind in the 17th minute after she made a fabulous diving save to bat Alba Redondo’s close-range header onto the post.
The ball bounced back to Redondo, who pinged a second attempt off the same woodwork.
Spain continued to dominate possession and appeared to have been rewarded with a goal in the 37th minute when Redondo had trouble controlling a cross in front of the net, but Esther Gonzalez poked it in from an offside position.
The Dutch were poised to celebrate a penalty in the 64th minute after forward Lineth Beerensteyn collided with defender Irene Paredes in the area but again VAR intervened.
Beerensteyn had several excellent scoring chances, but the Juventus striker fired one shot wide of the net and another just over the crossbar.
Spain’s historic progress comes despite an ugly player revolt in the build-up to the tournament.
Fifteen players declared themselves unavailable for selection in September, saying events with the national team had impacted their emotional and physical health. They directed the bulk of complaints at coach Jorge Vilda.
The Spanish federation backed the coach but only six of the mutineers returned to play at the World Cup.
“As you can see we are all celebrating,” Spain coach Jorge Vilda said. “We continue to make history. It was a game more difficult than it could have been.
“It’s incredible how we have continued to struggle as we have in the face of adversity. We had to keep believing.”
His Dutch counterpart Andries Jonker said his team had proved in the tournament that it deserved to be among the top teams in the world.
“We did our best. We tried to camouflage our weaknesses and show out strengths, but there’s only one solution: You have you have to play forward, you have to get the ball, stay on the ball, make the game,” he said.
“What we showed during this tournament, sometimes it was fantastic, sometimes it was less than that.”