WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Jorge Vilda was more interested in the aftermath back in Spain if his team won its Women’s World Cup quarterfinal than he was about a rattling 5.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Wellington an hour before kickoff against Netherlands.
Salma Paralluelo was unshaken by the tremblor or the high-pressure stakes, scoring late in extra time Friday to give Spain a 2-1 victory and a place in the Women’s World Cup semifinals for the first time.
“We were so concentrated,” Spain coach Vilda said, recalling how his team prepared for the game even as the ground shook. “Yes, it was a middle (moderate) shake, an earthquake, but not today. The earthquake was the victory of Spain.”
The 19-year-old Paralluelo started the match on the bench for the first time at this World Cup and made her entry just in time to make history. Spain dominated a scoreless first half and 2019 finalist Netherlands had a penalty scrubbed out by the VAR in the 62nd minute after a tussle between Irene Paredes on Dutch forward Lineth Beerensteyn.
Mariona Caldentey scored from the spot in the 81st minute after defender Stefanie van der Gragt was penalized for hand ball as a cross was fired into the area.
Then van der Gragt, moving up front, scored in stoppage time to equalize at 1-1 and send the match into extra time.
Paralluelo broke down the left off Jennie Hermosa’s pass in the 111th minute, swiveled past one defender, propped and sent her left-foot shot into the far corner of the net. Spain will meet either No. 3-ranked Sweden or 2011 champion Japan in the semifinals.
“It was a unique moment, great euphoria to have lived through that,” Paralluelo said.
Vilda rode the roller-coaster of emotions that fans in Spain and the Netherlands, watching a match that for them kicked off at 3 a.m., and the 32,000 fans in the stadium experienced.
“They played an extraordinary level, all players, and there was a match with a lot of emotions,” Vilda said. “And the goal from Salma, it was sheer joy. We had to wait for a few minutes to get the end result of the whistle in the end, and I’m extremely happy.”
Vilda was confident that fans who watched in the early would not have been disappointed.
“It’s a great day for Spanish women’s football,” he said. “We’ve reached somewhere we’ve never reached before, and done it playing a good game as well, with a team that is convinced that we can go even further.”
He praised Paralluelo, a student athlete who specialized at running the 400-meters before turning to soccer, for filling her role so expertly, particular at a time when superstar Alexia Putellas’ playing time has been limited.
“Well, she came in or she helped us with what we wanted to achieve,” he said. “We wanted to rest our central defenders and in the second half Salma with her speed was going to be a substitute with other wingers who are very quick.
“Salma is a player with an enormous potential. And she’s not reached her best yet.”
The Dutch were unusually passive in the first half, at their most dangerous when they sent long balls forward.
Beerensteyn who had celebrated the United States’ exit from the tournament at an earlier news conference, was the greatest threat to Spain through the second half and in extra time when she had two good chances but couldn’t convert.
Spain also had narrow misses, in the 17th minute when Alba Redondo hit the post twice.
For Netherlands, the penalty that was awarded and then overturned was difficult to come to terms with.
“Well, look, I think the VAR didn’t do their work properly, but they (Spain) deserved to win,” Netherlands coach Andries Jonker said. “It’s just that this decision was wrong. It was wrong.”
“The main thing is, this is the Netherlands, we can play football, and we can win against Spain.”
Netherlands lost 2-0 to the United States in the 2019 World Cup final and this was another hard loss to take, coming by such fine margins.
“We are part again of the top of the world,” Jonker said. “Looking at our games against Germany, the U.S. and Spain, we’re right there.
“We did our best. We tried to camouflage our weaknesses and show out strengths, but there’s only one solution: you have to play forward, you have to get the ball, stay on the ball, make the game and step one was fantastic. What we showed during this tournament, sometimes it was fantastic, sometimes it was less than that.”
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup
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