Four highly competitive fixtures determined how the last four of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup would look as a quartet of Everton Women stars looked to book their nation’s spot in the semi-finals.
With half of the fixtures requiring extra time and one needing matters to be settled from the spot, which Blues made it to the next round of the competition, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, and which of our stars would be heading home?
Let’s find out.
Extra time heartbreak for Netherlands
Teenage winger Salma Paralluelo came off the bench to break Dutch hearts as her 111th-minute strike was enough to book a semi-final date with Sweden.
Katja Snoeijs was introduced five minutes before the end of normal time with the Netherlands already a goal down in a match largely dominated by their opponents.
The 2019 runners-up kept plugging away, though, and got their reward when Stefanie van der Gragt equalised in stoppage time, going from villain to a hero after her handball led to the penalty to give the Spaniards the lead.
But it was Paralluelo who had the last word when her inch-perfect drive ensured progression for her country and saw the 19-year-old become her country’s youngest scorer to date at the World Cup.
Swedes surge to last four
Amanda Ilestedt’s goal and a Filippa Angeldahl penalty proved to be just about enough to thwart a late onslaught from Japan.
West Ham’s Honoka Hayashi pulled a goal back in the 87th minute, but this could have been the equaliser had Riko Ueki’s spot-kick not cannoned off the crossbar ten minutes earlier.
Anything other than a Sweden victory would have been harsh on Peter Gerhardsson’s side, who produced a stunning display to book their place in the last four and a mouth-watering clash with Spain.
Nathalie Bjorn completed another 90 minutes with a typically assured display while Hanna Bennison was introduced six minutes before the end to combat an attempted Japanese comeback.
Shootout victory for hosts
A last four fixture with European champions England is Australia’s reward after the hosts bested France 7-6 on penalties following 120 minutes of goalless football.
Clare Wheeler could again only watch from the sideline as Cortnee Vine scored the winning spot-kick for Australia, following Vicki Becho’s miss.
Matildas’ keeper Mackenzie Arnold was the hero and headline grabber, making a total of four saves in the shootout, including twice from Kenza Dali, having moved off the line for the first stop which led to a retake.
The stopper was also her country’s no.5 taker in the dramatic shootout, but saw her penalty come back off the post. This proved incidental though as the co-hosts march onto their first ever World Cup semi-final.