SPAIN’S women’s football team battled their way into a historic World Cup semi-final in New Zealand after dispatching Holland with an extra-time winner in the quarters.
The clash, unfolding in Wellington, saw the Spanish side emerge victorious with a hard-fought 2-1 win.
The match’s pendulum-like momentum swings seemed to tip in Spain’s favour when Mariona Caldentey calmly slotted an 81st-minute penalty into the net, igniting hopes of a historic triumph.
However, Holland’s tenacious Van der Gragt, whose handball precipitated Spain’s first goal, proved saviour for the Dutch with an emphatic 91st-minute equaliser.
As the dust settled and the extra time began, Spain’s young sensation Salma Paralluelo, aged just 19, orchestrated a breathtaking 111st-minute breakaway goal that settled the tie.
Spain’s triumph could see them potentially cross paths with their nemesis from the group stage, Japan, in the semis, who are set to face off against Sweden later on Friday in their own quarter final clash.
For the first hour, Spain showcased their dominance over the Netherlands with a staggering shot count of 11-0.
It marked the first time in World Cup history when the Dutch team failed to take a single shot during an entire 45-minute period.
The match took a dramatic twist in the second half, punctuated by two pivotal penalties – one revoked and one awarded.
Substitute Lynn Wilms found Beerensteyn in a promising position, but the Dutch forward fell under Irene Paredes’ pressure.
Referee Stéphanie Frappert initially awarded a penalty to the Dutch side, however, a VAR review saw the decision overturned.
Central defender Van der Gragt’s involvement in both 90-minutes goals was a dramatic conclusion to her intention to retire after the tournament’s conclusion.
Her powerful 91st-minute strike was a fitting send-off for the veteran.
But in the end it was Spain’s day, and they will harbour dreams of winning their first ever World Cup.
- IN PICTURES: Shakira and Lewis Hamilton’s new dalliance among celebrity love flowering in Spain’s Balearics this summer
- Brits remain the number one spenders in Spain – but latest tourism report is grim reading for the French
- WATCH: Herd of wild boars startle beachgoers in Spain’s Marbella