Australia, England to meet in WC semis after tight wins

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Co-hosts Australia beat France 7-6 in a dramatic penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw on Saturday to reach the FIFA Women's World Cup semifinals for the first time, while England edged Colombia 2-1 to also progress, reported Xinhua.

The Matildas will play England in a blockbuster in Sydney on Wednesday, while Spain and Sweden face off the day before at Eden Park.

This grouping of four semifinalists guarantees that there will be a first-time World Cup winner crowned this tournament.

The quarterfinal in Brisbane ended goalless after a nerve-jangling 120 minutes couldn't separate Australia and France.

In a see-saw of a shootout, Australia missed two chances to seal victory, including from goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold whose attempted winner smashed into the post.

But Arnold proved to be Australia's hero, saving three shots in total before ice-cool Cortnee Vine calmly converted as the 49,461 fans erupted at Brisbane Stadium.

It brought to an end the longest shootout in the tournament's history, with both teams having 10 spot-kicks each.

"I'm just speechless right now to be honest," said Arnold, the player of the match. "I could have won the game for the girls and I missed it, but they rallied around me and just kept me in it."

"At the end of the day it's my job to keep the ball out of the net and thankfully I could do that for them."

"I think we'll have maybe tonight to celebrate it and then tomorrow we'll review it and move on to the next game."

France's bid for a second semifinal appearance ended in heartbreak having controlled large chunks of the game, but they couldn't crack Australia's gritty defence.

"There were a couple of things that could have gone the other way," France coach Herve Renard said.

"Unfortunately, we weren't able to quite clinch that win. I've got nothing to criticize, everyone worked exceptionally hard."

After being outplayed before the interval, Australia were ignited by the return of talismanic skipper Sam Kerr who came on as a substitute early in the second half.

But she couldn't conjure a goal as the contest came down to a thrilling shootout.

In the later quarterfinal, England ended Colombia's stellar campaign with a comeback victory to keep their bid of a first title alive.

Once again buoyed by their boisterous fans, comprising most of the 75,784 crowd in Sydney, a pumped-up Colombia dictated the early exchanges.

They deservedly drew first blood late in the first half when Leicy Santos superbly lobbed over goalkeeper Mary Earps.

But England immediately hit back when Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez badly fumbled and allowed Lauren Hemp to capitalize for the equalizer.

The Lionesses hit the front in the 63rd minute when a perfect through-ball from Georgia Stanway found Alessia Russo, who fired into the net.

Colombia never gave up, but missed late opportunities for an equalizer as England celebrated on the final whistle to set up a mouth-watering clash with Australia.

It will be their third straight semifinal appearance.

Colombia were the last team from the Americas left in the draw, after the early exits of powerhouses United States, Brazil and Canada.

  •  Women’s WC


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