Netherlands forward Manon Melis says she was calmed by the certainty she would score as she walked up to take her penalty in the shoot-out with France, which the Oranje won 5-4 in sudden death following a goalless 120 minutes to set up a semi-final meeting with England on Sunday.
Through to the last eight for the first time since 1993, when the competition was organised under a different format, Vera Pauw's troops served up an impressive display of defensive football to keep France quiet and then settle the match from the spot, Anouk Hoogendijk registering the decisive penalty. Before that, Corine Franco, Ophélie Meilleroux and Candie Herbert had all failed for Les Bleues, with misses from captain Daphne Koster and Dyanne Bito momentarily suggesting the Netherlands might not take advantage.
'It was crazy'
"I couldn't believe what was happening but in the end we scored and it was crazy," said Melis. "Everyone jumped up. It feels great; I can't describe it but you saw us celebrating." The 23-year-old, who celebrated her birthday earlier this week, nonetheless claims to have been the epitome of composure when preparing for her own spot-kick just minutes earlier: "When we started I was nervous but then walking towards the penalty area I wasn't nervous any more. I was concentrating on myself and I was pretty sure I'd score, actually."
The LdB FC Malmö striker did just that, immediately finding her range after two hours of football that brought just one clear opportunity. "That's due to our tactics," she said. "We play really defensively so there's a lot of running. I had one good chance in the first half and half-chances in the second, but it's really hard because you're running so much and working in defence. I was on the right and the girl [Sonia] Bompastor was running a lot, so I had to go with her. But it's OK: I'm just working for the team and every game I get one or two chances."
Melis and Co now have just two days to prepare for their last-four meeting with England, who saw off hosts Finland 3-2 to book their own passage to the match in Tampere. "They're a really good team, with [Kelly] Smith, [Karen] Carney, [Alex] Scott and other names," said Melis. "We saw them against Sweden on television and they did a good job, but anything's possible now. When we started everybody was happy to have Holland in their group and I think France were also happy to meet us – so you never know."
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