The Netherlands reached the semi-finals of the women’s World Cup for the first time in their history on Saturday after beating Italy 2-0 in Valenciennes.
The Dutch will travel to Lyon to face either Germany or Sweden, who play later in Rennes, in the last four thanks to fine headers from Vivianne Miedema and Stefanie van der Graght in the final 20 minutes.
The United States and England will face off in the other semi-final on Tuesday after the Americans beat France 2-1 in a pulsating encounter on Friday.
Both teams had complained about the scheduling of the match in the middle of the afternoon during a punishing early summer heatwave that is sweeping Europe.
However, it was the Dutch who responded best to the on-pitch humidity, with temperatures creeping over 30 degrees Celsius, completely dominating the second half in an impressive display that will give the Germans and Swedes pause for thought.
The best chance of an error-strewn opening period fell to Italy’s Valentina Bergamaschi, who found herself with enough time to bring down and finish Barbara Bonansea’s flick-on in the 18th minute but instead poked a weak half-volley straight at Sari van Veednendaal.
Bergamaschi then turned provider for the Italians seven minutes before the break, laying on Valentina Giacinti only to see her AC Milan teammate scuff a presentable opportunity wide.
The Dutch meanwhile struggled initially to get behind Italy’s tenacious backline despite the ‘Azzurre’ gifting them the ball on countless occasions.
They took control of the match up early in the second half, however, with Lieke Martens twice forcing Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani into action and Miedema just failing to connect with Desiree Van Lunteren’s fizzing low cross seven minutes after the break.
Danielle van de Donk then hit the bar just before the hour mark with a dipping effort before Sherida Spitse saw her powerful free-kick flick out off the post.
However, Italy’s luck ran out in the 70th minute when Spitse whipped in a perfect cross from the left flank that Miedema glanced home with her head to make it 61 goals in 80 international matches.
Italy wilted and 10 minutes later the Dutch sealed their place in the last four, Spitse again putting in a precision cross that van der Graght nodded home at the far post to end the discussion and Italy’s dream run in France.