Defender Eve Perisset scored a penalty in extra time to earn France a 1-0 win over holders the Netherlands and a place in the semifinals of the Women’s European Championship for the first time on Saturday.
France, whose last three appearances at the Euros ended in the quarterfinals, desperately searched for an opening to score as they kept surrounding the Dutch goal but it took Perisset’s spot kick in the 102nd minute to finally break the deadlock.
Corinne Diacre’s side were awarded the penalty after Kadidiatou Diani was brought down by defender Dominique Janssen and Perisset fired her effort into the corner of the net past the diving Daphne van Domselaar, who had been magnificent.
“All the players performed their roles and we saw how well that worked,” Diacre said. “We would like to have scored earlier but we were up against an incredible Dutch goalkeeper.”
France became the fourth nation to have reached the semifinals of the Women’s Euros, World Cup and Olympics after Germany, Norway and Sweden.
They will play eight-time European champions Germany on Wednesday after hosts England meet Sweden in the first semifinal on Tuesday.
France had scored all of their eight group-stage goals before halftime but despite putting the Dutch under relentless pressure were unable to score within 90 minutes.
The Dutch had one shot on target throughout the game, even with their all-time top scorer Vivianne Miedema returning to the lineup after she missed two group stage games due to COVID-19.
Mark Parsons’ Dutch side were also very lucky to have Van Domselaar, whose incredible saves took the game into extra time.
The 22-year-old had one cap before taking over from the injured Sari van Veenendaal in their opening 1-1 draw against Sweden.
Van Domselaar blocked a low shot by Diani in the 15th minute as well as powerful strikes by Charlotte Bilbault and Delphine Cascarino from outside the box in the next five minutes.
“We gave everything. There is not a player with an ounce of energy left,” Parsons said.
“The first half was very difficult, that wasn’t us but we got in at 0-0 thanks to Daphne [van Domselaar] and others. Second half was much better, we really believed in extra time, but we had tired bodies. I couldn’t be prouder of the effort.”
France’s Cascarino continued to seek the opening goal with an effort in the 27th minute but her attempt hit the post.
Melvine Malard then thought she had finally found the opener for France in the 37th but Stefanie Van Der Gragt blocked her shot on the goal line.
The well-positioned Van Der Gragt went on to block another strike from Grace Geyoro, who tried her luck from close range four minutes later.
Geyoro, who grabbed a hat-trick in France’s tournament opener against Italy, could not find the target again from close range three minutes from time.
But France deserved the win and the final shot count of 33-9 in their favour, with 11-1 on target, showed their dominance.