1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Euro 2022: France break new ground to reach first Euros semi

Oliver Moody New York Stadium, Rotherham
July 24, 2022

France reached their first European Championship semifinal with an attritional extra time victory over holders Netherlands. France's reward is a final four showdown against Germany on Wednesday in Milton Keynes.

France's players celebrate against the Netherlands
France had been eliminated at the quarter finals of each of the last three European Championships.Image: Eibner/Memmler/IMAGO

France 1-0 Netherlands (after extra time)
(Périsset pen 102')
New York Stadium, Rotherham

In the French cinematic masterpiece La Haine, one character tells the story of a man who falls from a skyscraper and, while plummeting to earth, tells himself repeatedly, "So far, so good." Any of the Netherlands players who have seen Mathieu Kassovitz’s classic could probably relate: they were falling for 101 minutes against France.

Yes, they kept a clean sheet through the 90 minutes. And yes, they forced extra time. So far, so good. But they were so far off France’s breakneck pace, so overwhelmed across the pitch, that their defeat felt like an inevitability almost from kick off. 

They showed great desire, and no small measure of ingenuity, to deflect the French assault on their goal for as long as they did, so much so that it took a penalty to break their brave resistance. But it’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you land.

Kadidiatou Diani is brought down by Dutch defender Dominique Janssen for the penalty.
Kadidiatou Diani is brought down by Dutch defender Dominique Janssen for the penalty.Image: Matt West/Shutterstock/IMAGO

France change the record

France started the match with verve, and already in the first minute their aggressive pressing and quick interplay created an opening for Grace Geyoro. The hattrick hero from their opening-game demolition of Italy scuffed her effort, but it was a sign of things to come.

France’s coach Corinne Diacre, who has clashed with players and dropped some star names, said ahead of the game that she hoped it would be an interesting spectacle for the supporters. Her players certainly did their best to impress the 9,764 fans in South Yorkshire, but their purpose went far beyond entertainment. They had never gone past the quarterfinals at a European Championship, a record that needed changing, here and now. Indeed, they had fallen at this stage at the last three Euros, two World Cups, and the 2016 Olympics. It was past time for them to show they could finally clear that hurdle.

They should have been at least one goal ahead by the 23rd minute, when the ball rolled kindly into the path of Sandie Toletti, begging to be caressed into the net. But the midfielder failed to keep her composure.

Whether it was Kadidiatou Diani tearing through on the counter, or Delphine Cascarino striking the post from distance, France were showcasing just how many different ways they could score, without doing anything quite so vulgar as actually scoring, of course.

This display of performance art reached its zenith when they forced defender Stefanie van der Gragt into not one, but two heroic goalline clearances.

France captain Wendie Renard tackles Sherida Spitse of the Netherlands
France captain Wendie Renard was a commanding figure at the back.Image: Eibner/Memmler/IMAGO

Dutch lack attacking punch

Netherlands coach Mark Parsons had talked about his players having to adapt to France’s tactics during the game. "It’s about spaces, and the opponent gets to decide what space is or is not there. And then it’s up to us to take it or create it,” he said before the match. In fact, the far bigger concern for his side was the way their opponents found space behind the Netherlands midfield seemingly at will. 

Much has changed for the Dutch since their home triumph in 2017. Back then, a ferocious front three of Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens and Shanice van de Sanden ripped through opponents, particularly in the knockout stages. But with Van de Sanden not in the squad, Martens stricken by a foot injury, and Miedema having been locked away in her room for the last two games with covid, their attack had none of the relentlessness that was its trademark five years ago.

Van Domselaar stars but is eventually breached

As the game wore on, France’s threat increasingly came from their gargantuan centre back and captain, Wendie Renard. Surely the most potent set-piece weapon in football, towering above whichever poor soul is condemned to mark her, Renard’s head became the target of every cross. She forced Daphne van Domselaar into a sprawling save just past the hour mark, in search of her 34th international goal,and her first at Euro 2022. 

Netherlands goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar makes a save against France
Netherlands goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar made a string of superb stops in just her fifth international game.Image: Tim Goode/IMAGO

But like all of France’s exquisitely crafted efforts, Renard’s headers failed to make the breakthrough. Right up the last act of the 90 minutes, when it looked for all the world like she had finally smashed down the Dutch dam, only for van Domselaar to tip the shot wide with sensational agility. 

Finally, with almost 100 minutes of football played, Diani went through on yet another break. For the first time all night, van Domselaar wavered, uncertain whether to come or not. Dominique Janssen, perhaps thrown by this, dived in. After a VAR delay, France had a penalty, and Eve Perisset planted the spot kick in the corner of the net with all the collected rage of her team’s multiple quarterfinal failures.

"They had a great start in the tournament and they have a lot of good attackers," Janssen told DW after the game. "Of course in some situations we had a bit of luck, but at the end you feel like something could happen because you only need one good moment to actually change the game. But it's obviously very disappointing."

On Saturday evening the French players could have been forgiven for feeling a nagging sense that they’d seen it all before. Once again they strode out onto the turf of Rotherham’s New York Stadium, the arena that all four of their Euro 2022 games so far have taken place at. But that’s where any idea of deja vu ended. Finally, France have made it to a Euro semifinal. Germany await in Milton Keynes on Wednesday.

Edited by Michael Da Silva