Australia is one step closer to becoming the first nation this century to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil.
Following a back-and-forth scoreless tie in Brisbane, the Matildas beat France in an extended 10-round penalty shootout — the longest in World Cup history, women’s or men’s — to advance to the semifinals at Australia-New Zealand 2023.
Australia will meet England on Wednesday in the semis after its come-from-behind win over Colombia (coverage begins at 5 a.m. ET with kickoff at 6 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).
Vicki Bècho missed the final spot kick for Les Bleues, and Cortnee Vine stepped up and converted her try to send the Aussies to the final four for the first time.
Australia advances to semifinals in historic shootout
Here are three quick thoughts on Saturday’s match.
Play of the game
Australia had a golden opportunity to score a few minutes before halftime. Les Bleues goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud Magnin came out of her net but was unable to corral a loose ball. Matildas attacker Emily van Egmond pounced, controlling and cutting it back for teammate Mary Fowler. The net was wide open. Fowler had to score.
But France defender Élisa De Almeida raced back to cover Magnin, and she was able to block the forward’s shot by throwing her body in front of it to keep the game scoreless.
France’s Elisa De Almeida saves the day
France had a chance to win it before the shootout, too.
In the first of the two 15-minute halves in extra time, Bècho had an open look at the top of the box and sent a laser toward the top corner.
It was the best chance for Les Bleues all game and could’ve been the game-winner. Instead, Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold dove to her right and parried the effort away to keep her team in the contest:
Perhaps most remarkable about this game was how tiny Australia’s margin of victory was. The shootout was 7-6. Shots on goal 5-4, France, which controlled possession 51-49.
The Matildas had two chances to win it from the spot before Vine ultimately sealed the triumph. Both times the home kicker missed, prolonging the encounter further. That’s how it went all night.
Like a pair of evenly matched prizefighters, Australia and France traded punches from start to finish during a match that, despite the dearth of goals, was still a 120-minute-plus advertisement for the women’s game.
Few scoreless draws are like this. Often one team dictates the majority of play while the other holds down the fort defensively and tries counterattacks or, if necessary, simply holds on for dear life. This match was nothing like that. It was a treat to watch.
Played in front of a packed stadium filled with partisan yellow-and green-clad supporters, the atmosphere inside the 52,000-seat Brisbane Stadium matched the magnitude of the occasion. The nerves were evident for both teams; both were guilty of errant touches and badly off-target passes and shots. But the intensity more than made up for it.
At arguably the most entertaining Women’s World Cup ever, Saturday’s contest was among the most compelling yet.
Instant reactions to Australia’s epic win over France
What’s next for Australia?
Every champion needs a little luck along the way, and fortune was on the Aussies’ side in the end Saturday. The triumph sets up a delicious encounter in Sydney midweek, with a spot in the Aug. 20 championship match — also in the country’s largest city — on the line.
Momentum has been building for the hosts. However they prevailed on Saturday, the entire country is behind them now.
“You are a part of this win” — Australia coach Tony Gustavsson thanks fans
What’s next for France?
It’s a bitter blow for Hervé Renard’s squad four years after from the pain of Les Bleues losing to the United States at this same stage in front of a packed house in Paris.
The consolation? France will have another shot to win its first major title next summer on home soil, as the City of Lights hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter at @ByDougMcIntyre.
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