France beat England to reach World Cup semifinals

Leverkusen: France beat England 4-3 on penalties to advance to their first ever Women`s World Cup semifinals on Saturday.

The match went into a nail-biting penalty shootout after finishing 1-1 after extra-time.

Jill Scott had put England ahead after 59 minutes with Elise Bussaglia getting the equaliser two minutes from normal time.

England`s Claire Rafferty and Faye White missed their penalties as did France`s Camille Abily.

"To get to penalties we did well. It was just unfortunate we missed two," said England coach Hope Powell.

"It was just tired legs. At the end we were dead on our feet. Unfortunately when it came down to penalties you have to applaud France."

France next play either Brazil or the United States for a place in the final on July 17.

Apart from suspended keeper Berangere Sapowicz, France fielded the same team that crushed Canada 4-0, including five Lyon players who won last season`s Champions League final.

Technically superior the French dominated before the break but were unable to convert any of their chances to the disappointment of the 20,000-plus crowd in the World Cup stadium.

England`s best early chance on goal came seconds into the game when Kelly Smith beat the off-side trap, rounding goalkeeper Celine Deville, only to have her shot an an open goal blocked.

A long-range effort from French midfielder Abily after four minutes went flying over the bar, as a powerful 25th-minute Gaetane Thiney shot from outside the box was pushed out by Karen Bardsley in the England goal.

The French pushed forward and three minutes later a Marie-Laure Delie effort went just wide with Louisa Necib`s attempt grazing the crossbar moments later.

Bardsley, who pulled off some superb first-half saves, did well five minutes before the break when she rose to hold a dangerous curling Necib corner.

Back after the break the French continued causing all sorts of problems for the English defenders with Montpellier striker Delie twice going just wide with Bardsley holding a Thiney effort.

Scott missed a chance to put England ahead after 55 minutes when she picked up a cross from Rachel Unitt only for her header to go just left of goal.

But four minutes later she made no mistake with the Everton midfielder latching onto a Rachel Yankey cross to rifle in her second goal of the touranment from 20 yards out.

The French piled on the pressure as they went in search of the equaliser with Delie missing a chance after 66 minutes, with another effort from substitute Elodie Thomis held by Bardsley.

But Bussaglia finally got the equaliser with two minutes to go as the Paris Saint Germain midifielder`s shot hit the post and curled into the net ensuring that the match went into extra-time.

Ellen White missed a chance while a header from France substitute Eugenie Le Sommer went over as both sides looked weary with England veterans Kelly Smith and Faye White limping as the whistle blew ensuring the match went into penalties.

Bureau Report

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