Teenage Sensation Salma Paralluelo Secures Spain’s Historic Women’s World Cup Semifinal Berth.
In a thrilling encounter, 19-year-old winger Salma Paralluelo emerged as the hero for Spain, clinching a dramatic 111th-minute winner as they triumphed over the Netherlands to secure their first-ever spot in the Women’s World Cup semifinals.
The excitement was palpable as Mariona Caldentey seemed to seal Spain’s victory in regular time, netting an 80th-minute penalty after Stefanie van der Gragt’s handball infringement in the box. However, the Netherlands’ van der Gragt swiftly turned the tide by slamming in a stoppage-time equalizer, keeping her team’s hopes alive.
In extra time, Paralluelo’s remarkable performance came to the fore. The teenager capitalized on an opening in the box, receiving a pass from Jenni Hermoso and calmly slotting the ball home off the left post. Her decisive strike not only propelled Spain to their first major semifinal in 26 years but also marked her as Spain’s youngest-ever scorer in a Women’s World Cup and a rising star in the making.
Throughout the match, Spain exhibited dominance, outplaying the Netherlands for extended periods. The Dutch side, runners-up in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, struggled to match Spain’s performance despite moments of intensity. Their frustration was compounded by Lineth Beerensteyn’s missed opportunity just moments before Paralluelo’s game-changing goal.
Spain’s next challenge will be against either Japan or Sweden in the semifinals, setting the stage for a thrilling contest. Prior to Paralluelo’s heroics, the match was defined by the intervention of the video assistant referee (VAR), with decisions shaping the course of the game.
Notably, Spain had a goal disallowed due to offside after Esther Gonzalez’s close-range effort found the net, with VAR intervening to negate the score. Spain’s dominance was evident as Alba Redondo struck the post twice in rapid succession, only to be denied by the woodwork and a stunning save by Daphne van Domselaar.
The Dutch side also faced VAR-related controversy, with referee Stephanie Frappart initially awarding a penalty to the Netherlands before overturning her decision after reviewing footage. The match was marked by several twists, ultimately culminating in Paralluelo’s unforgettable moment, as van der Gragt brought her illustrious career to a close.
Having earned her 106th cap during the match, van der Gragt, who is retiring after the tournament, showcased her resilience. From a handball error that resulted in Spain’s first goal to a composed equalizer during injury time, she left a lasting impact.
The Netherlands, without the suspended Danielle van de Donk, struggled to match Spain’s prowess throughout the match. Damaris Egurrola’s presence in midfield couldn’t replicate van de Donk’s impact, and Jill Roord’s early substitution underscored her subdued performance.
In the end, Spain’s exhilarating victory was a testament to their superior gameplay and Paralluelo’s emergence as a budding star, casting a spotlight on the exhilarating journey of women’s football.