Co-hosts Australia beat France 7-6 on penalties to reach the last four of the Women’s World Cup for the first time after their quarter-final finished deadlocked at 0-0 following extra time.
Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold saved three French penalties and missed one herself in the shootout on Saturday but it was teenager Vicki Becho hitting the post with the 12th spot kick that opened the door for the hosts.
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Cortnee Vine showed nerves of steel when she stepped up to fire the ball past Solene Durand into the bottom right corner of the net and send the Matildas into a semi-final against England or Colombia on Wednesday.
The substitute winger raced back towards the centre circle to celebrate with her teammates as the stadium and fan zones around the country exploded in delight.
Spain will play Sweden on Tuesday in Auckland for the other spot in the final.
France, who were looking to reach the semi-finals for the second time after 2011, had the better of the first half and extra time and will rue a few chances left out on the pitch as they head home.
Australia forward Mary Fowler had earlier spurned several chances – one stopped by a sensational block from Elisa de Almeida – and captain Sam Kerr was unable to get a clear shot on goal after being introduced as a 55th-minute substitute.
France dominated possession for much of the match and had the best of the early chances with Maelle Lakrar fluffing a golden opportunity to give Les Bleues the lead from a corner in the 12th minute.
Australia’s only early chances came against the run of play from set pieces but Fowler had as many as six as the game opened up around halftime.
Kerr entered the fray to a huge ovation in the 55th minute, her first charge forward giving Hayley Raso space for a rasping long-range shot that France’s starting goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin did well to push over.
France weathered the storm triggered by the introduction of the Australia captain, however, and their 19-year-old substitute Becho was soon threatening down the other end.
The last quarter of an hour of normal time was a tense but ragged affair with half chances at both ends, a theme reprised in the first half of extra time.
Australia’s Alanna Kennedy headed the ball into her own net in the 100th minute under the attentions of Wendy Renard only for the France captain to be penalised for a foul on Caitlin Foord.
France had the better of the second period with Becho lashing a shot from the edge of the box in the 107th minute that goalkeeper Arnold saved well.
That was just a precursor to her heroics in the shootout, in which she twice saved penalties from Kenza Dali with her first stop scratched off because she moved off the line before it was taken.
“I am so freaking proud. The bravery they have shown tonight is unbelievable,” Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said, labelling keeper Arnold as the “game changer” for having the self-belief to save penalties having missed herself.
“I am so happy for her.”