It took 60 minutes for England to break the deadlock, but once Jodie Taylor gave the Lionesses the lead, they never relinquished it, defeating France, 1-0. Holding on for the final 30 minutes, even after starting goalkeeper Karen Bardsley exited with an injury and France cranked up the intensity in search of an equalizer, England found a way to do what it hadn’t been able to do since 1974: beat France.
It was the third upset of the day, as Denmark stunned Germany, 2-1, in a quarterfinal match postponed from last night due to poor playing conditions caused by excess rain, followed by Austria’s upset of Spain via penalty kicks. For more than 120 minutes, Austria and Spain battled, but neither team was able to fight their way onto the scoresheet. Spain dominated possession and had the vast majority of shots on the day, but statistics are meaningless when not accompanied by goals. In that regard, Spain remained level with the debutantes, with neither team able to finish any of the chances on goal. Still scoreless after two extra time periods, the game was sent to penalties.
Austria went first in the shootout, and both teams converted both of their first two attempts. Austria’s Verena Aschauer converted the third penalty for her country, sending Sandra Paños the wrong way as she buried her shot into the bottom left corner. Austrian goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger stepped back between the posts, awaiting Silvia Meseguer’s shot. Meseguer sent her attempt right, and Zinsberger guessed the right direction, making a brilliant diving save to parry the shot away. That one save was enough to send Austria to the semifinals, as all five Austrians converted their attempts.
The opening half of the final quarterfinal match also remained scoreless, but the back-and-forth exchange between England and France was much more exciting than in the match before it. France came out in the first 45 minutes with a much stronger performance than any in the group stage, even without Wendie Renard or Eve Perisset, both of whom were suspended for the match. However, the Lionesses were up for the challenge, especially after 10 of England’s starters were rested during their final group stage match. After a fierce battle in the opening half, both teams went into the locker room unable to find a goal.
The Lionesses came into the second half determined to not let history repeat itself. In the 60th minute, Lucy Bronze dispossessed Eugenie Le Sommer of the ball and began a run down the center of the pitch. As blue jerseys began to enclose on her, Bronze sent a perfectly-weighted through ball right to the feet of Jodie Taylor, who ended her run with a shot from just outside the goal box. Sarah Bouhaddi was able to get her right hand on Taylor’s shot, but her touch wasn’t enough to prevent it from bouncing in for her fifth goal of the tournament.
As soon as England scored, France countered in attempts of quickly equalizing. Just minutes later, Camille Abily sent in a cross from the left flank that England keeper Bardsley came jumping off her line to try to punch away. She collided with Griedge M’Bock Bathy in the air, causing her to land awkwardly on her ankle as Jade Moore cleared the deflection off the goal line. Moore’s clearance fell to Abily and she slid it over to Marie-Laure Delie, whose shot was jumped on by Bardsley. It was a chaotic, messy sequence that resulted in England preventing a French equalizer and Bardsley to have to come out 10 minutes later, unable to play after hurting her ankle on the play. Siobhan Chamberlain entered in her stead and played out the remaining 15 minutes.
France again had back-to-back attempts on goal in the 85th minute on a play that originated with a free kick from Claire Lavogez. After the ball bounced around in the box for a bit, Laura Georges took a shot, only for it to deflect off a Lioness and back into play. Amandine Henry then attempted to send in the rebound, but was once again denied by the sea of white jerseys crowding the box.
France’s last good chance on goal came in the 89th minute when Les Bleues were once again awarded a free kick within scoring position, but Lavogez played it short to Henry, who skied her shot well off target. Six minutes of second-half stoppage time wasn’t enough for France to break their quarterfinal curse, and despite entering the tournament as a favorite to win the title, they once again were sent home empty-handed.
The EURO 2017 semifinal stage is now set with Denmark facing Austria at noon ET on Thursday, August 3, followed by England taking on the Netherlands at 2:45 p.m. ET. Both semifinal matches will be streamed live on ESPN3.
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