The final day of the Round of 16 served up triumph for a returning nation and heartbreak for a former World Champion, sealing off a hectic week of knockout games. This also means that all eight quarter finalists have been confirmed.

 

Italy v China

After a 20 year absence from the World Cup, Italy have secured their spot as one of the top eight after a jubilant 2-0 win over China at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier.

Italy’s Valentina Giacinti had the first look on goal in the 11th minute, but was adjudged to be offside. She made no mistake the second time around, calmly striking the ball into the back of the net after a scramble in the box.

China came close to an equaliser at the half-hour mark when Wang Yan pulled the trigger from outside the 18 yard box, forcing goalkeeper Laura Giuliani into a stretching save to tip the ball over the crossbar.

First half substitute Aurora Galli put her name down for the winning goal at the 50 minute mark, her long range driving shot cruising past an outstretched Peng Shimeng into the bottom left corner.

L’Azzurre will make an appearance in the World Cup quarter finals for the first time since 1991, and they hope to continue their phenomenal run when they face off against the Netherlands, the current European champions.

Italy       2 (Valentina Giacinti 15’, Aurora Galli 50’)

China      0

 

Netherlands v Japan

The showdown of the knockout round – current European champions against former World and current Asian champions. It would be heartbreak for the latter as a controversial late penalty marked the end of a match filled with technical brilliance and delicious football, the Netherlands defeating Japan 2-1.

The Dutch drew first blood in the 17th minute via Euro 2017 Golden Ball winner Lieke Martens. The star winger effortlessly backheeled Sherida Spitse’s corner at the near post, nutmegging Yuika Sugasawa on the way into the bottom right corner.

Nadeshiko found their equaliser just before half-time – their second goal from open play in this tournament – through a beautiful passage of play. Sugasawa passed the ball back to Mana Iwabuchi in the box, who pulled a dummy to throw off her defender. The latter then squeezed the ball through the Dutch defence line to serve up a wonderful opportunity to Yui Hasegawa, who found the target past Sari van Veenendaal.

The match looked to be destined for extra time, before Saki Kumagai was shown yellow following a handball call in the 88th minute, when Vivianne Miedema’s goal-bound strike deflected off the limp arm of the Japanese captain.

The referee pointed to the spot, and Martens coolly sent Ayaka Yamashita the wrong way to guarantee Oranje’s passage through to the quarter finals.

Netherlands       2 (Lieke Martens 17’, 89’)

Japan                  1 (Yui Hasegawa 43’)