Germany were knocked out in dramatic fashion as Denmark headed themselves into the semi-finals. Debutantes Austria pipped Spain at the post by defeating them 5-3 on penalties after one of the most boring games of the tournament. England defied the odds by beating France 1-0 for the first time since 1974 as the hosts, the Netherlands, made light work of Sweden thanks to Lieke Martens starring once again.
Martens starred yet again for the Netherlands as she dazzled the opposition with her trickery and light feet on the left wing. Vivianne Miedema was stripped by Jessica Samuelsson just inside the Swedish penalty area but as luck would have it the referee awarded a free kick and not a penalty. Perhaps luck had nothing to do with it as Martens stepped up to the plate and placed the ball into the bottom right corner of the Swedish goal to put the hosts ahead. Jackie Groenen continued her midfield general role but found herself flirting with some finesse in the second half as the Dutch grew more confident as the game went on. It was, however, Martens who continued to star as her precise pass over the top put Shanice van de Sanden in a very good crossing position. Cool, calm and collected, van de Sanden curled the ball across the box to Miedema for a simple finish and her 42nd international goal in the second half.
Austria v Spain proved to be nothing less than a snore fest. Spain continued to dominate possession as they have for the entire tournament but they have struggled to convert that dominance into goals. Austria defended well and in numbers but struggled to break down a solid Spanish defence when they did get the ball and the chance to break on the counter. The most entertaining parts of the game were half time and penalties. That’s just how bad the game was. Spain were sloppy as they lost 5-3 on penalties with Manuela Zinsberger in inspired form saving twice as Sarah Puntigam scored Austria’s winning penalty. Not a bad record for Austria as they reach their first semi finals in their debut in the Women’s Euro Championship.
Germany lost to Denmark in only their third loss in the 26 year history of the competition and it ensures that a new winner will be crowned this summer for the first time since Norway’s victory in 1993. The first half saw both teams approach the game rather tentatively with mistakes the only reasoning behind conceding goals. After just two minutes Germany did open the scoring through Isabela Kerschowski. Her rather innocuous shot found itself into the Danish goal as Stina Lykke Petersen misjudged the flight of the ball completely. The Danish defence could only look on in despair as Petersen palmed the ball into her own net. Stevie Wonder could have and probably would have saved that. However, Germany were 1-0 ahead but never really settled. Denmark looked dangerous every time they had the ball in the final third as Germany’s make-shift defence struggled.
Hesitation down the German left from Dzsenifer Marozsan and Kerschowski allowed Denmark’s Stine Larsen to play on after what was thought to be a foul and cross the ball in for Nadia Nadim to head the ball home at the far post and equalise for the Scandinavians. Marozsan and Kerschowski protested as they felt that there was a foul on Larsen that should have seen the whistle blown. However, the referee had an opposing point of view and Denmark didn’t really care as they were back in the game. Germany looked rattled and struggled to get into the game in the second half. With just seven minutes remaining of the second half, Frederikke Thøgersen broke free down the right and found Theresa Nielsen unmarked in the box with her cross as Denmark scored their second header of the game to spark wild celebrations on the touchline. Nielsen must have thought Christmas had come early as the ball came to her gift wrapped as Denmark now find themselves in the semi-finals.
Mark Sampson’s Lionesses took on France in the last quarter-final of the round. England have failed to beat France since 1974 but that didn’t seemed to bother the Lionesses one bit. Jordan Nobbs was a threat from set pieces as she continued to control that midfield and Jodie Taylor continued to show Europe what she is capable of. Lucy Bronze found herself in a rather forward and central looking position as she found Taylor unmarked with a beautiful pass. Taylor continued her run into the box to face Sarah Bouhaddi one on one but Taylor was not to be perturbed as she slotted home from the angle as a despairing Bouhaddi could only get one hand to it. England managed to see out the game through dogged and tireless defensive work from the entire team as the Lionesses show the kind of fight needed to win big tournaments. England’s victory wasn’t without sacrifice however. Karen Bardsley’s unfortunate collision with England captain Steph Houghton resulted in a broken leg and will mean that Bardsley’s tournament on the pitch is over. Siobhan Chamberlain is more than ready to step in and make a solid contribution.
England and the Netherlands are the only sides left in the tournament with a 100% record as both teams face each other in the semi-finals. The Austrians have emerged as the surprise package of the tournament as they will face the impressive Denmark.
Semi Final Fixtures:
Thursday 3rd August
Denmark v Austria (17:00 UK)
Netherlands v England (19:45 UK)