Women's World Cup: Netherlands makes history with second-half headers

Netherlands scored twice in the second half to see off Italy in the Women's World Cup quarterfinal.

Netherlands has sealed a first-ever World Cup semifinal berth and also its first-ever Olympic Games place.   -  Getty Images

Vivianne Miedema and Stefanie van der Gragt headed the Netherlands to a 2-0 win over Italy and into the Women's World Cup semifinal for the first time on Saturday.

Arsenal forward Miedema and defender Van der Gragt nodded in a pair of Sherida Spitse free-kicks in the space of 10 second-half minutes to break the stubborn Azzurre resistance.

The second strike extended Netherlands' tournament-high haul of headed goals to five and confirmed its passage into the final four, where it will face either Germany or Sweden.

 

Clear-cut chances had been rare throughout a match played in stifling heat in Valenciennes but Sarina Wiegman's side established control after half-time and was the worthy winner in the end.

Netherlands was given an early reprieve when Valentina Bergamaschi spooned a tame finish into Sari van Veenendaal's gloves following Barbara Bonansea's flick-on header.

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Bergamaschi scuffed a second shooting chance two minutes later as European champion Netherlands struggled to make use of their possession.

The first cooling break brought little disruption to the nature of proceedings, Valentina Giacinti firing wide off her left foot in the moments that followed.

 

Lieke Martens, who overcame a foot problem to start for the Oranje, tested Laura Giuliani with a well-taken volley in the 50th minute.

That effort marked the start of a better period for Netherlands that saw Danielle van de Donk hit the crossbar with a classy curling effort from beyond the box, before Spitse arrowed a low free-kick against the outside of the left post.

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The latter instead turned provider as the breakthrough eventually came 20 minutes from full-time.

Spitse delivered an inviting free-kick from the left and Miedema guided a glancing header beyond the outstretched Giuliani, with the sealer from Van der Gragt following in similar circumstances 10 minutes later as Italy's impressive run came to an end.

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