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Paralluelo Powers Spain to Historic Women's World Cup Semis

 Paralluelo Powers Spain to Historic Women's World Cup Semis

Paralluelo Powers Spain to Historic Women's World Cup Semis
Paralluelo Powers Spain to Historic Women's World Cup Semis(Image-Getty)

Substitute Salma Paralluelo proved to be the pivotal figure in a gripping match between Spain and the Netherlands, securing a nail-biting 2-1 victory for her team in extra time. This triumph marks Spain's maiden entry into the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup.

At the age of just 19, Paralluelo, an agile winger from Barcelona, orchestrated a stunning play that shattered the 1-1 deadlock. Receiving a perfectly timed through ball, she artfully maneuvered around a Dutch defender, exhibiting remarkable skill, before unleashing a powerful shot that reverberated off the post and found its way into the net.

In the aftermath of her game-changing goal, Paralluelo shared her elation, stating, "This moment holds immense significance for me; it was truly exceptional, accompanied by an overwhelming euphoria. I am filled with tremendous happiness and gratitude."

The Spanish team, ranked sixth in the world, had previously faced limitations, having failed to progress beyond the round of 16 in their two preceding World Cup appearances. Now, they find themselves on the cusp of history, poised to contend against either Japan or Sweden in the semi-finals, with the coveted spot in the final match in Auckland beckoning.

Coach Jorge Vilda lauded the team's perseverance, particularly in the context of the extended playing time. He remarked, "Our journey extended into extra time, yet our team unwaveringly held onto their belief. Every player exhibited an extraordinary level of skill and commitment. The match was characterized by an abundance of emotional decisions, culminating in Salma's goal that evoked sheer jubilation."

The tightly contested game witnessed a flurry of late goals, with Mariona Caldentey notching Spain's first point through a penalty kick in the 81st minute. This pivotal moment followed a handling offense committed by Dutch defender Stefanie Van der Gragt within the penalty box. The Netherlands, however, retaliated swiftly, with Van der Gragt making amends for her error by equalizing in the 91st minute, propelling the game into extra time in front of a fervent audience of 32,021 at Wellington Regional Stadium.

The Dutch team, ranked ninth globally and having been runners-up to the United States in the previous World Cup, became the latest casualty of the tournament's surprising upsets. Renowned teams such as the U.S., Germany, Canada, and Brazil had already been eliminated.

Throughout the match, goalkeeper Daphne Van Domselaar emerged as a pivotal figure for the Dutch side, showcasing her prowess with a remarkable diving save in the 17th minute to deflect Alba Redondo's close-range header onto the post. The subsequent rebound was met with a second attempt from Redondo, which, unfortunately for Spain, met the same fate against the woodwork.

Spain's dominance in possession persisted, and in the 37th minute, they appeared to have secured a goal when Esther Gonzalez managed to poke the ball into the net. However, the joy was short-lived, as the goal was disallowed due to an offside position.

The 64th minute saw the Dutch team poised to claim a penalty, following a collision between Spanish defender Irene Paredes and Lineth Beerensteyn within the penalty area. However, the intervention of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) nullified the appeal, much to the chagrin of the Dutch coach, Andries Jonker. Reflecting on the match, Jonker acknowledged, "Although a penalty should have been awarded, it does not diminish the well-deserved victory achieved by Spain."

In the waning moments of extra time, Beerensteyn of Juventus fame had several promising opportunities to alter the course of the game, narrowly missing the mark with a shot that veered wide of the net and another that sailed just above the crossbar. Jonker lamented the missed chances, noting, "That particular juncture represented a decisive moment where seizing an opportunity was imperative. Had we converted, our conviction to secure a spot in the semi-finals and progress to the final would have been unshakable."

Spain's historic advancement in the tournament serves as a remarkable feat, especially in light of the challenges that preceded it. The team confronted an internal turmoil in the lead-up to the World Cup, as fifteen players opted to withdraw from selection in September, citing adverse effects on their emotional and physical well-being stemming from national team events. The majority of their grievances were directed at Coach Vilda. Despite this upheaval, the Spanish federation stood by the coach, and while only six of the players who participated in the rebellion returned for the World Cup, the team's perseverance and collective efforts have led them to this unprecedented juncture.

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