There was double joy for France who created history Saturday by booking a ticket to their first ever Women’s World Cup semi-finals and secured their berth to the 2012 Olympics.
Bruno Bini’s side came out best in a dramatic 4-3 penalty shootout win over England after the tie had ended 1-1 after extra-time.
Japan’s surprise 1-0 victory over two-time defending champions Germany in their quarter-final in Wolfsburg ensured that the French will have one of the two European qualifying spots for the London Games.
“It’s not a beautiful day, it’s a very beautiful day,” said Bini.
“They’re going to go to a European championships, a World Cup and the Olympic Games. It’s superb for the girls.”
Bini said: “I think I aged ten years when they scored against us, and ten more when one of our penalties was saved.
“But thankfully winning the match took 22 years off me.
“I do feel for my counterpart, Hope Powell; I was in the same situation as her two years ago at Euro 2009,” said Bini whose side were knocked out of that tournament on penalties by the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.
“I know that our joy is matched by their pain. We?ve been staying in the same hotel as the English, and I’ll make sure that our players bear their disappointment in mind.”
The French had dominated the tie and after missing numerous chances to score were shocked when Jill Scott put England ahead after 59 minutes.
But they pushed forward in search of the equaliser which Elise Bussaglia finally grabbed two minutes from time.
Such was the French delight that striker Marie-Laure Delie pretended to shine the Paris Saint Germain midfielder’s boots.
The extra-time proved difficult for the English with veterans Kelly White and Faye Smith both limping even if striker Ellen White came close to getting one past goalkeeper Celine Deville, standing in for suspended Berangere Sapowicz.
There was a heart-stopping moment for the French when Camille Abily missed her opening penalty despite a sterling performance which saw the midfielder being named player of the match.
But England’s final two penalty takers Claire Rafferty and Faye White both missed the target allowing Les Bleus go through and keep their unbeaten record against the English going back to 1974.
It was a double exploit for the French who will meet either Brazil or the United States in the final four in Moenchengladbach on Wednesday.
Only the two best European countries, plus hosts England, will compete in the Olympic Games. As Germany are out of the tournament only Sweden who play their quarter-final against Australia on Sunday can match the French.
“It was a very, very tough game, certainly in the first half France were the best team,” said England coach Hope Powell.
“We didn’t hit the ground running which was unfortunate. We managed to hang on but we knew that France were going to hang on to. “You have to give credit to France they rumbled us. We had a game plan and we didn’t stick to it. It just didn’t click. “We had some really tired legs out there today. At the end we were dead on our feet.” – Yahoo News