Martens sends Netherlands through to maiden quarter-finals
The Netherlands reached the women’s World Cup quarter-finals for the first time when Lieke Martens’ last-gasp penalty earned them a 2-1 victory against Japan on Tuesday.
Martens put the Dutch in front after 17 minutes, only for Yui Hasegawa to level on the stroke of halftime, but the forward sent the European champions through with a spot kick in the last minute.
Japan, who hit the woodwork twice, dominated the second half but lacked the finishing touch.
The Netherlands, taking part in only their second women’s World Cup, will play Italy in Valenciennes on Saturday after the Azzurre beat China 2-0 earlier on Tuesday.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” said Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman.
“We were saying ‘let’s continue writing history!’ For the first time we got to this stage at the World Cup. All the players then used this mantra.
“We will enjoy this victory and only tomorrow we will start thinking about Italy.”
It was a major setback for Japan, who had won the 2011 World Cup and reached the final of the previous edition.
“We knew it was going to be difficult. We played really calmly but we needed to be more clinical,” said Japan coach Asako Takakura.
“Towards the end of the match, in the second half, we created chances and it was unfortunate that we could not convert them. I’m really frustrated for the girls.”
The Oranje dominated early on with Vivianne Miedema’s shot hitting the post and they were rewarded in the 17th minute when Martens back-heeled a corner into the net to open the scoring.
Japan, however, had their chances with Yuika Sugasawa racing through only to see her curled shot crash against the post.
They deservedly equalised two minutes before the interval as Hasegawa scored with a cool finish after being superbly played through by Mana Iwabuchi.
The pace dropped after the break, with the Netherlands controlling the match without putting Japan under the cosh.
Japan only mustered half chances until the 79th minute, when Hina Sugita’s rising shot hit the crossbar just before Sari van Veenendaal was forced to save at full-stretch to deny Yuka Momiki.
The game eventually went the Netherlands’ way when Saki Kumagai handled the ball in the area and Martens converted the resulting penalty.
The Netherlands’ victory ensured that seven of the eight quarter-finalists were European.
Italy beat China 2-0 to continue dream World Cup return
Italy beat China 2-0 to qualify for the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup in convincing fashion on Tuesday as their dream return to the tournament after a 20-year absence continued.
Valentina Giacinti and Aurora Galli netted either side of the interval to set up a meeting with the Netherlands or Japan, who play later on Tuesday (1900 GMT).
Italy have made it to the last eight of the women’s World Cup only once, in the inaugural edition in 1991 when the group phase directly led to the quarter-finals.
China, the 1999 runners-up, enjoyed a good spell before the break but failed to make it count as Italy keeper Laura Giuliani made some good saves.
“It’s an incredible result in a difficult game. Today was not a great match, but football is not just that... the girls gave everything,” said coach Milena Bertolini.
“Reaching the quarter-finals is a huge satisfaction. Now we need the warmth of the Italians, because the more we go on, the more the level increases.”
“We’ve done a good job. We need to do much better. We couldn’t win the game and I apologise to all the Chinese fans,” said China coach Jia Xiuquan.
“We understood Italy very well and it was a good game. This is football. Whoever makes mistakes first, has to pay.”
Bertolini’s team were focused from the outset and were rewarded after 15 minutes as Giacinti started and finished the move for Italy’s opener.
She broke down the right flank and her cross was met by Barbara Bonansea, who played in Elisa Bartoli.
The fullback’s attempt was parried by China keeper Peng Shimeng into the path of Giacinti, who had followed up to stab home from close range.
The Azzurre went close to doubling their tally when Valentina Bergamaschi’s fierce angled shot forced Peng to save at full stretch.
China had a couple of chances through Wang Yan but Italy keeper Giuliani stayed alert to preserve her team’s lead, as the pressure on her goal increased thanks to some fine creative play by Wang Shuang.
Italy, however, regained the momentum early in the second half when Galli, who had replaced the injured Cristiana Girelli in the first half, found the back of the net with a low 20-metre strike in the 50th minute.
It was her third goal of the tournament, with all three having been scored after she came off the bench.
China pushed to find a breakthrough but Italy’s back four were largely untroubled as they kept their opponents at bay until the final whistle.