The CommBank Matildas make history defeating France in dramatic penalty shoot-out
The CommBank Matildas are through to their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™ semi-final after a dramatic penalty shootout victory over France.
The teams could not be separated after 120 minutes. Despite multiple opportunities, it remained scoreless. A penalty shootout for the ages was required – including saves, re-takes, missed opportunities, drama. Substitute Cortnee Vine was the one who converted and Australia made history.
Coach Tony Gustavsson named an unchanged team from the one who defeated Denmark 2-0 in the Round of 16. That meant a 4-4-2 with Mary Fowler and Emily van Egmond reprising their roles as central strikers.
France came out of the blocks the stronger team. Kadidiatou Diani was everywhere, the striker making her presence felt early. There was a nervy moment early on when Alanna Kennedy scuffed a clearance, but she did just enough to put Diani off, and her shot was fired wide.
Maelle Lakrar – Herve Renard’s only change to his starting line-up from their win over Morocco – had a golden opportunity to score from a few metres after a second ball was put into the box from a corner, but the ball sailed over the crossbar.
Australia began to wrestle back control from the 20th minute. The pressing of the front line – most notably Caitlin Foord - was causing Les Bleues issues, and there was a sustained period of pressure from the green and gold.
It was this press that almost created the first goal of the game. A miscommunication involving the French goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin resulted in Mary Fowler finding the ball at her feet unmarked in the box, and with the goal bereft of a goalkeeper. Somehow, Elisa De Almeida blocked the shot, and the ball went out for a corner.
The same defender was responsible for snuffing out another Fowler opportunity five minutes later. It was a splendid period of play from the Paris Saint-Germain star that meant that the match was scoreless at the half time interval.
It was the players in green and gold who looked more likely after the break. Fowler again had opportunities, and was again denied – this time by the boot of Peyraud-Magnin in goals.
The crowd rose with the introduction of Sam Kerr less than ten minutes into the second half, and the team rose with them. There was a period of pressure around the 60-minute mark where it looked like Australia would score at any moment. Somehow, Les Bleues repelled wave after wave.
They had chances of their own, mostly from set pieces, but nothing clear-cut. After 90 minutes, the teams could not be separated, and the game was destined for extra time.
France, again, applied pressure through set pieces. Mackenzie Arnold was called into action with a stunning save from Vicki Becho on the edge of the area. The Matildas hit back with chances of their own – in particular, substitute Cortnee Vine came very close to turning in a cross at the front post, but it shaded just wide.
However, you always got the sense in extra time we were destined for penalties, and a shootout it was. The crowd held their breath.
It’s impossible to put the penalty shootout into words. Mackenzie Arnold made a number of saves. She, as well as Clare Hunt, had the opportunity to win it and could not convert. But Cortnee Vine – after what felt like an age, who would never have expected to be required – scored. It was decisive. The Matildas found a way, and will play either England or Colombia in the semi-final.