Denmark upset tournament favorite France in penalty kicks 4-2 after finishing regulation, then extra time, tied at 1-1. Denmark, who snuck into the quarterfinals without a win after a drawing of lots with Russia, will now face Norway in the semifinals.
The Danes certainly deserved the victory if measured by their first half performance, as France came out flat and uninspired, and Johanna Rasmussen was able to capitalize in the 28th minute. As the France back four completely failed to defend against a long ball from Katrine Søndergaard Pedersen, Rasmussen found the other end of it for the goal. Sarah Bouhaddi’s only meaningful task of the first half was collecting the ball from the back of the net.
France was lucky to go into the half with a full eleven on their side, after Gaëtane Thiney’s studs-up challenge on Mia Brogaard somehow did not result in a card of their color, though a red was clearly deserved. Head Coach Bruno Bini also pulled captain Sandrine Soubeyrand and sent in the speedy Élodie Thomis, though her effect on the game would not be instantaneous.
Denmark looked ready to weather the storm for the full ninety, but their physical play turned sloppy. They narrowly missed one call on a potential penalty kick from referee Carina Vitulano, but could not escape the second in the 71st minute after Camille Abily was brought down in the box by Line Røddik. Louisa Necib stepped to the spot, and while Stina Petersen was able to get both hands on it, she only helped the ball into the corner of the net.
The case of the curious referee continued for the rest of the ninety minutes, as France could have argued for another two potential penalties in the box, and a number of corner kicks were mistakenly called as goal kicks. The game felt destined for extra time, and neither side had much in the way of true offensive opportunities until extra time was well underway.
Camille Abily had the chance to end the French frustration in the 107th minute, after Les Bleues were granted a free kick right outside the penalty box from a Line Jensen foul. Abily would take the strike, and push it over the wall, but the shot did not fall quickly enough and struck the woodwork.
And so it would come to penalty kicks.
With Stina Petersen already having come up huge twice in their group game against Sweden, and Sarah Bouhaddi known for her inconsistent play, Denmark certainly went into penalty kicks with a slight upper hand.
First to the mark, Denmark’s Line Røddik. She beat Bouhaddi to the corner to give the Danes a 1-0 edge. Louisa Necib took the first shot for France, and true to form, Stina Peterson once again came up with a massive save. She guessed correctly, as Necib placed it almost exactly where she had in the 71st minute.
Julie Rydahl was next, having come on as a subsitute for Denmark early in the 2nd half. Bouhaddi went right, Rydahl went left, and Denmark led 2-0. Thiney calmly clawed one back for France, with a chip right down the middle to make it 2-1.
Nadia Nadim, another Danish sub, made it 3-1 after beating Bouhaddi, who had guessed correctly but could not make the save. Eugénie Le Sommer stuttered on her approach in, and Petersen was unable to compensate, cutting the lead to 3-2.
Sarah Bouhaddi kept France in during the start of the fourth round. With Theresa Nielsen at the mark, her strong shot stayed too close to Bouhaddi who punched it away from goal. Sabrina Delannoy stepped up with the chance to tie it for Les Bleues. Delannoy struck for the corner, and ricocheted off the post to keep Denmark in the lead at 3-2.
It was Janni Arnth who sealed Denmark’s fate as semifinalist, smashing her shot into the top left corner.
While France dominated the group round, they once again make a quarterfinal exit at Euros, and head coach Bruno Bini now finds himself in the same unpleasant spotlight as England’s Hope Powell. After the match, Bini told press asking if his position may be in question: “This isn’t the time to talk about that. There’s a time for everything.”
France will have plenty of time to discuss what went wrong for them in this tournament, but for Denmark, they will only have days until their semifinal matchup against Norway on July 25. From the luck of the draw to the luck of the penalty spot, Denmark is the Cinderella story of Euros 2013.
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