Matildas’ historic leap into Women’s World Cup semi-final

The Matildas have made Australian sporting history after reaching the Women’s World Cup semi-finals for the first time with a penalty shootout win over France.

Aug 13, 2023, updated Aug 13, 2023
 Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr and Steph Catley celebrate Cortnee Vine's penalty goal to seal Australia's win over France. Photo: AAP /Darren England

Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr and Steph Catley celebrate Cortnee Vine's penalty goal to seal Australia's win over France. Photo: AAP /Darren England

In an epic, record-setting shootout, after scores were locked at 0-0 after extra-time, heroic goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold made three saves in a player-of-the-match display.

It left Cortnee Vine to coolly convert the winning spot-kick to seal the quarter-final victory in front of 49,461 screaming fans at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

The Matildas will play England, who defeated Colombia 2-1, in next Wednesday’s semi-final at Stadium Australia in Sydney, for a place in the decider.

“I said to the team before the game that It is not about the medal around your neck. It is about the heart beating on the backside of it, meaning … it is about heart,” coach Tony Gustavsson said.

“The amount of heart, soul and passion this team showed tonight … there are different ways of defining success but for me success is when you leave it all out there, no matter the result.

“You play with your heart and give it your best for the crest on your chest. The players represent so much more than 90 minutes of football.”

After France’s Vicki Becho hit the post at 6-6, Vine calmly drilled her penalty into the bottom corner to send Australian fans into ecstasy.

Arnold had earlier slammed Australia’s fifth penalty into the post but recovered to star in the 20-penalty shootout, the longest ever in the tournament’s history.

“I can start with the circle going into the PK shootout. I like to prepare. I said to the players and looked them in the eyes, ‘trust me when I say you are prepared for this moment,’” Gustavsson said.

“I said, ‘you are ready. Let’s show the world you are ready as well’. During the PK shootout it was an emotional rollercoaster for all of us. It was almost like it was written in the stars for Macca (Mackenzie Arnold) when she walked up to take that fifth one.

“She saves one and then it is meant to be … and she hits the post. And then you go through all those emotions. Then Vine steps up, a World Cup debutant and stays as composed as she does.

“To stay in the game and be that person and player that wins the game for us…it is unheard of, that mental strength.”

Arnold was still processing her heroics, which included denying Kenza Dali at 6-6, being ruled to have come off her line, only to then save the midfielder’s second attempt.

“I could have won the game for the girls but they rallied around me and kept me in it,” Arnold said.

“At the end of the day it is my job to keep the ball out of the net and thankfully I could do that.

“Honestly we all do it for each other. They had my back 100 per cent.”

Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr, Mary Fowler, Katrina Gorry, Tameka Yallop, Ellie Carpenter and Vine all converted their spot-kicks – with Gorry,

Steph Catley and Clare Hunt were denied by French goalkeeper Solene Durand, who was substituted in for the shootout.

The nerve-wracking shootout followed a dramatic 120 minutes in which both teams had chances to win.

Kadidiatou Diani fired a warning shot in the eighth minute and Maelle Lakrar blasted a tap-in over the bar in the 12th minute while Arnold also denied Eugenie Le Sommer and Lakrar in the 28th and 32nd minutes.

Fowler was denied by an heroic block from France right-back Elisa De Almedia in the 41st minute and goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin four minutes later.

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Kerr was introduced to a rousing reception in the 55th minute and almost immediately burst forward and found Raso, whose long-range effort was brilliantly denied by Peyraud-Magnin.

Neither team broke through from there on and the game went into extra time.

France skipper Wendie Renard had a goal disallowed in the 100th minute for fouling Foord.

Vine then toe-poked a difficult chance wide five minutes later while Arnold made a huge save to deny Becho in the 107th minute.

“My belief that this team can do anything had been there before tonight,” coach Tony Gustavsson said.

“I genuinely believe this team can create history in so many ways, not just winning football games but in the way they can inspire the next generation and unite the nation.

“That is why I believe in them so much.”

With World Cup glory in their sights, Australia’s heroes are determined not to let their golden run end here – especially not at England’s hands at Stadium Australia on Wednesday night.

“I mean that’s what we’re here for,” skipper Sam Kerr said.

“But one game at a time. We’re not going to get this far and then get too far ahead of ourselves.”

The scenes around – and en route to – Australia, have been astonishing.

Footage has been posted of an entire flight’s passengers watching the shootout, bar one exception with someone getting stuck into Lord of the Rings.

Live sites around the country, and big screens at places like the MCG, erupted into ecstasy.

The Matildas have every reason to believe they can make the country explode all over again.

-with AAP

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