Australia edges France in dramatic finish to make World Cup semifinal
Co-host Australia surged into their first Women’s World Cup semifinal after a heart-stopping 7-6 penalty shoot-out win against France on Saturday as European champion England awaits.
With the two sides locked at 0-0 after 120 minutes, it all came down to Australia’s Cortnee Vine, and she coolly converted the winning kick to send the Brisbane crowd into raptures.
It ended a remarkable, drama-filled, shoot-out that saw both teams take 10 penalties.
Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said it was the most emotionally draining night of his career.
“I’ve won medals, but I said to the team before this game that it’s not about the medals around your neck,” he added.
“It’s about the heart beating on the back of it. And the heart beating tonight in this team and in this country, unbelievable. I’m so freaking proud about this team.”
In front of a sell-out crowd of more than 50,000, Australia’s victory was achieved despite Sam Kerr again being left on the bench at kick-off.
The talismanic Matildas captain, now fit after a calf injury, came on early in the second half and duly converted her penalty in the shoot-out.
Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold had missed a chance to win the game when her kick hit the post, but she saved twice from Kenza Dali after the VAR spotted she had both feet off her line the first time.
Vicki Becho missed France’s 10th penalty, and it was left to Vine to beat France’s substitute goalkeeper Solene Durand, who had been sent on especially for the shoot-out.
“You have to be proud of the girls tonight. They played an exceptional match,” French coach Herve Renard said.
“It went from one end to the other and it’s hard to say who deserved it more. Congratulations to Australia.
“We have to keep our heads up and think about the (Paris) Olympic Games.”
There is a growing sense of optimism and expectation in Australia that their team could go all the way.
The 2011 champions Japan were defeated 2-1 by Sweden on Friday, meaning there will be a new name on the World Cup trophy this year.
Outgoing holders the United States and former champions Norway and Germany are all already out.