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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Spain’s Paralluelo’s extra time strike inflicts pains on Netherlands

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FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Quarter Final - Spain v Netherlands - Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand - August 11, 2023 Netherlands' Stefanie van der Gragt celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

Substitute Salma Paralluelo scored an extra-time winner to lift Spain to a nervy 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on Friday and into the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time.

The 19-year-old Barcelona winger broke the 1-1 deadlock when she latched onto a through ball, turned a Dutch defender inside and out and unleashed a shot that clanged off the post into the net.

“It means everthing for me, it was a unique moment, great euphoria … I’m extremely happy,” Paralluelo said.

The sixth-ranked La Roja, who had not advanced past the round of 16 in two previous two World Cup appearances, will face either Japan or Sweden for a place in the final in Auckland on Tuesday.

“We went to extra time, but the team kept on believing,” said coach Jorge Vilda. “They played on an extraordinary level, all players, and it was a match with a lot of emotional decisions, and the goal from Salma, it was sheer joy.”

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All the goals came late in a tight game with Mariona Caldentey scoring Spain’s first from a penalty kick in the 81st minute after Dutch defender Stefanie Van der Gragt had handled the ball inside the box.

Van der Gragt, in her final match before retirement, earned some redemption when she equalised in the 91st minute to send the contest to extra time in front of 32,021 fans at Wellington Regional Stadium.

The ninth-ranked Dutch, who were runners-up to the United States four years ago in France, became the latest tournament favourites eliminated in a tournament full of upsets, with the U.S., Germany, Canada and Brazil already gone.

The Dutch had goalkeeper Daphne Van Domselaar to thank for not falling behind in the 17th minute after she made a fabulous diving save to bat Alba Redondo’s close-range header onto the post.

The ball bounced back to Redondo, who pinged a second attempt off the same woodwork.

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Spain continued to dominate possession and appeared to have been rewarded with a goal in the 37th minute when Redondo had trouble controlling a cross in front of the net, but Esther Gonzalez poked it in from an offside position.

The Dutch were poised to celebrate a penalty in the 64th minute after Spanish defender Irene Paredes barged Lineth Beerensteyn over in the area but again VAR intervened.

“It should have been a penalty after all, but it still doesn’t mean that Spain didn’t win deservedly,” said Dutch coach Andries Jonker.

Beerensteyn had several excellent scoring chances late in extra time, but the Juventus striker fired one shot wide of the net and another just over the crossbar.

“That was the moment we should have taken a chance,” said Jonker. “Had we made it, we’d have been convinced to make it through the semi-finals and make it to the final.”

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Spain’s historic progress comes despite an ugly player revolt in the build-up to the tournament.

Fifteen players declared themselves unavailable for selection in September, saying events with the national team had impacted their emotional and physical health. They directed the bulk of complaints at Vilda.

The Spanish federation backed the coach but only six of the mutineers returned to play at the World Cup.

-Reuters

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

‘It shall be showers of goals’, vows Flamingos ahead of Liberia clash

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Head Coach Bankole Olowookere is confident that the Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, will not take their feet off the pedal when they take on their Liberian counterparts in a FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying match in Abuja on Friday.

“We are battle-ready for the match on Friday. The girls are raring to go because they want to go to the World Cup. They are already dreaming of flying to the Dominican Republic.

“There is so much excitement in camp, and they are self-assured. However, I have warned them that it is never over until it is over. There should be no display of over-confidence on the pitch. We must approach the match like the first leg was a drawn game.”

Nigeria won the first leg 4-1 in Monrovia on Sunday, with 11-goal qualifying series revelation Harmony Chidi, Shakirat Moshood, Peace Effiong and substitute Blessing Ifitezue banging in the goals for the Flamingos. The hosts got their consolation goal off a penalty awarded with five minutes left of the encounter at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

The Flamingos will take part in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup for the seventh time once they cross Friday’s hurdle.

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They featured at the inaugural edition in New Zealand in 2008, and subsequently at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Jordan 2016 and India 2022, where they won the bronze medals.  

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Flamingos hammer hosts Liberia 4-1, put one leg in World Cup finals

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FIFA World Cup bronze medallists Nigeria routed Liberia 4-1 in a fast-paced FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying round, first leg encounter in Monrovia on Sunday.

The Flamingos got off to a pretty quick start at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex at the Paynesville, but the Liberian girls, who shocked Senegal on the away-goal rule to reach this final round, warded off the early threats.

Nigeria got the ball into the net after 14 minutes, but Chadian referee Lare Lamngar ruled it off. Not to be deterred or discouraged, the Flamingos poured forward once again, and in the 19th minute, Shakirat Moshood opened the scoring from a sweet solo run.

Peace Effiong, who got a brace in the 6-0 defeat of Burkina Faso at the MKO Abiola National Stadium last month, scored in the 29th minute to put a wedge of respect between the two teams.

Usual suspect Harmony Chidi, scorer of six of the 12 goals that sank the Central African Republic, and who equally netted four in the 7-1 dismissal of Burkina Faso in the last round, headed home her 11th goal of the qualifying series in the 36th minute to put daylight between both teams.

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On resumption, Nigeria continued to dominate, and substitute Blessing Ifitezue made it four with 16 minutes left.

Liberia scored a consolation goal with five minutes left, from the penalty spot, through Yassah Gwaikolo, after substitute Onyedikachi Ekezie was adjudged to have committed a foul in the area.

The Flamingos will return to Nigeria on Tuesday, and immediately commence preparations for the return leg encounter scheduled for Friday at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

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