(CNN)The Netherlands beat Italy 2-0 to reach a first ever semifinal at the Women’s World Cup.
It was a familiar name, Vivianne Miedema, who scored the winner in the 70th minute in Valenciennes courtesy of a glancing header before another header from Stefanie van der Gragt 10 minutes later put the game away. Miedema at 22 has tallied a remarkable 61 goals for the Netherlands, which quickly has become one of the world’s strongest teams. The Netherlands pulled off an upset by winning the European Championships on home soil two years ago and has maintained the momentum in France. “I’m not really surprised with how far we’ve come, but I’m very proud of the team,” Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman was quoted as saying by FIFA. “I think we have very good players but things have changed so much since the European Championships. We’ve gained a lot of confidence but we also needed to improve our game to perform on the level that we’re at at this World Cup.” Read MoreVisit CNN.com/Sport for more news, features and videosMake that sweltering France. The nation recorded its highest ever temperature Friday amid a heat wave that has struck much of Europe, hitting 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.6 Fahrenheit) in Gallargues-le-Montueux in the south of the country. JUST WATCHEDLieke Martens: Dutch star celebrates Euro winReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Lieke Martens: Dutch star celebrates Euro win 03:25Though the thermometer didn’t climb as high Saturday in Valenciennes in northern France, it still rose to the mid-30s Celsius (mid-90s Fahrenheit), according to France Meteo, the national meteorological service. The Netherlands actually asked world governing body FIFA for the kickoff time to be changed beforehand. Italy wanted a later start time, too. But it didn’t happen. Cooling breaks in heatThe contest was the lone quarterfinal played in the afternoon. The rest were scheduled for the evening local time. There were cooling breaks, one in each half, when the players huddled to drink water and sought shade. The way the game ended, perhaps the Netherlands didn’t mind playing in the afternoon, although there might be a knock-on effect for the semifinal against either Germany or Sweden. They duel later Saturday in Rennes, with the USA and England already guaranteed to meet in the other semifinal. Netherlands players celebrate during Saturday’s 2-0 quarterfinal win against Italy at the Women’s World Cup. Italy has captured the imagination of its home public with record viewing figures in the millions in their first World Cup appearance since 1999. But Italy paid the price for not taking chances in the opening interval. Winger Valentina Bergamaschi chested down with aplomb in the 18th minute when in the box but shot tamely at keeper Sari van Veenendaal. Two minutes later, Bergamaschi danced into the box but, in a promising position on the right, scuffed her effort. Then in the 36th minute, Valentina Giacinti’s swerving left-footed effort flashed just wide. The Netherlands was often in promising positions — notably down the right flank — but did little to test keeper Laura Giulani. Took over second halfThat all changed in the second half, when the Dutch took over. READ: The real reason Trump sets Rapinoe offREAD: Rapinoe, the US Soccer star who irked TrumpSherida Spitse’s free kick from a central position from just outside the box was a clear warning sign. The Netherlands opened the scoring shortly thereafter. Italy exited the World Cup after conceding from two set pieces in the second half against the Netherlands. Miedema cleverly got between Italian defenders and headed into the corner from former world player of the year Lieke Martens’ free kick, the first goal outside penalties Italy conceded in France. Off another set piece, van der Gragt made it 2-0, with Giuliani getting a hand to the effort but unable to keep it out. There might have been a frantic finish had Daniela Sabatino scored in the 82nd minute, but the substitute was denied by Veenendaal. Still it was Italy’s best finish at a Women’s World Cup since making the last eight 28 years ago. “The way they played and approached matches and their passion, they’ve shown people back home that football can be a sport where you have enjoyment, helping one another, unity and all these values,” Italy coach Milena Bertolini said. “I think that’s why the public have fallen in love with this team.”