Semi-final line-up complete
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THE DAY REPLAYED – Heading up a sea change in women’s football, Italy and Venezuela won out in two thrilling encounters on Thursday to check into the last four of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014.

In doing so they have both broken new ground. Tournament debutants Italy will be playing their first ever semi-final at a FIFA women’s tournament, while the South American champions have never gone so far in any FIFA world finals, in either men’s or women’s football.

They now face respective semis against Japan and Spain, two altogether more experienced sides who reached the same stage at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, where the Japanese finished runners-up and the Spanish took third. looks back on an exciting day of fluctuating fortunes, dramatic finales and goals and penalties aplenty.

Venezuela 3-2 Canada
Ghana 2-2 Italy (Italy won 4-3 on penalties)
Japan 2-0 Mexico
Nigeria 0-3 Spain

Memorable moments

A tale of three penalties
Italy’s Manuela Giugliano strode up to the spot not once, not twice but three times in her side’s meeting with Ghana. After putting her side into a 2-1 lead with the first of those penalties after 17 minutes, she stepped up to the plate again seven minutes after the restart, only to send her kick over the bar. That miss was still playing on her mind when the game went to a penalty shootout, with Giugliano requiring some reassuring words from her team-mates and coach before taking her third penalty of the day. “She’s one of our specialists,” said Enrico Sbardella. “We had to give her a lift, but there was no way she wasn’t taking one.” And take it she did, this time beating the Ghana keeper to help Italy into the semis.

Skipper Sugita to the rescue
Prior to their tie with Mexico, Japan had scored seven penalties out of seven at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. The task of taking number eight fell to Yui Hasegawa, with her side leading 1-0 and one minute remaining before half-time. Speaking to after the game, she explained what happened next: “Normally I put them to the left, but I was putting them down the middle in our last training session and it worked well for me. I decided to try that today, only things didn’t go to plan. Luckily for me, Hina Sugita was there to put away the rebound.”

Vinotinto rearguard pierced
After 19 minutes of her side’s match against Canada, Venezuela keeper Franyeli Rodriguez picked the ball out of the net for the very first time at Costa Rica 2014. The goal, scored by Canada’s Sarah Kinzner, was the first La Vinotinto had conceded in 296 minutes, the sixth longest run in the history of the competition. Though unaccustomed to falling behind, the South Americans rolled up their sleeves and came back to win, putting a smile on the face of their poker-faced coach Kenneth Zseremeta.

The stat
450 –
 Ghana’s Ernestina Abambila chalked up the 450th goal in FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup history on Thursday. And what a strike it was too. With her side trailing Italy 2-1 and the match heading into injury time, Abambila stroked home a superb free-kick to take the tie to penalties. Unfortunately for her, there was to be no happy ending for the Ghanaians.

The words
“We are very happy because Nigeria posed a massive challenge for us. We feel more relaxed and secure about our game now. We’re back playing the kind of football we’re known for, but we’re not getting carried away and we hope to keep on improving,”
Spain player Laura Dominguez.

Next matchday
Semi-finals, Monday 31 March
Estadio Edgardo Baltodano Briceno, Liberia

Venezuela-Japan, 17.00 
Italy-Spain, 20.00
(all times local)