Australia 0-0 (7-6) France: Matildas through to semifinals on home soil

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With Sam Kerr still not deemed fit enough to return to the starting lineup, the Matildas sought to record another win on home soil – with victory against France sealing their participation in the semifinals against either Colombia or England.

AUS: Arnold; Catley, Kennedy, Hunt, Carpenter; Foord, Cooney-Cross, Gorry, Raso; Fowler, van Egmond

FRA: Peyraud-Magnin; Karchaoui, Renard, Lakrar, de Almeida; Bacha, Geyoro, Toletti, Dali; Le Sommer; Diani

Chances were quick to appear in the first of Saturday’s two quarterfinal fixtures, with Kadidiatou Diani dragging her shot wide after just eight minutes. Capitalising on a poor clearance from Alanna Kennedy, the French striker found room for herself on the right side of the box – but blasted her effort wide of the far post.

Les Bleues looked to apply pressure to the Australian defence once again, as a French corner saw Wendie Renard nod a header towards Eugénie Le Sommer. The striker opted to dash a ball back across the face of goal, though Maëlle Lakrar wasn’t fully expecting that – and launched her rushed effort over the crossbar.

But despite the early French pressure, it was Australia that benefitted from the best chance of the first half. Hayley Raso’s ball into the box looked sure to allow Emily van Edmond space to shoot, though the striker opted to tee up Mary Fowler. With an open goal in front of her though, a superb block from Elise de Almeida saw the ball diverted out for a corner.

The Matildas sought to continue their high-pressure approach after the interval, with a poor clearance from Pauline Peyraud-Magnin allowing space for Mary Fowler to attempt a quick strike. That was diverted behind for a corner though, as the French defence breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Pauline Peyraud-Magnin was really put under the cosh as the half progressed, forced to deny a curling effort from Hayley Raso before producing another save to deny Mary Fowler from twelve yards out. Ultimately though, neither side were able to find the required breakthrough in ninety minutes – ensuring extra time would follow.

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With just ten minutes of the additional thirty played, Wendie Renard thought she had sealed French progression as she nodded a corner delivery across goal and into the back of the net – though the goal was promptly disallowed, as replays showed she had clearly forced Caitlin Foord to the ground.

Cortnee Vine looked to make an instant impact from the bench as the half-way mark approached, beating Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to Caitlin Ford’s cross – but the substitute poked her effort wide of the post!

But in the final fifteen minutes, the momentum seemed to shift, and it was les Bleues searching for the elusive winning goal. Vicki Bécho’s strike from the edge of the area was parried away for a corner by Mackenzie Arnold, who was then needed to palm away Kadidiatou Diani’s effort.

Penalties were ultimately needed after 120 goalless minutes – and a chaotic shootout ensued, with Selma Bacha skewing France’s first effort off target. Caitlin Foord didn’t make the same mistake, picking out the bottom-left corner to hand the Aussies the advantage.

The next round of penalties saw Kadidiatou Diani bring France level with an incredibly composed effort, and Steph Catley’s miss from the spot ensured that the scoreline would remain 1-1 after two spot-kicks each.

Wendie Renard, Sam Kerr, Eugénie Le Sommer and Mary Fowler all scored their efforts – but Ève Périsset’s miss handed Mackenzie Arnold the opportunity to seal Australia’s progression. Swapping her spot between the posts for a run-up from twelve yards, the ‘keeper thumped her effort against the woodwork, ensuring sudden death would follow.

Grace Geyoro Katrina Gorry, Sakina Karchaoui, Tameka Yallop, Maëlle Lakrar and Ellie Carpenter all found the back of the net with their respective efforts, but the drama truly presented itself with Kenza Dali’s effort. Her initial strike was saved by Mackenzie Arnold – and though VAR found the goalkeeper to be off her line, Dali made the same mistake with her second attempt.

Clare Hunt and Vicki Bécho were both denied with their respective efforts – allowing Cortnee Vine to slam her penalty home and steal the spoils for Australia. On home soil in front of a bumper crowd, it’s the Matildas that seal their participation in the semi-finals, where they’ll face either England or Colombia.

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