The ongoing controversy surrounding the handball rule at the Women's World Cup continued as the Netherlands were awarded a contentious late penalty to beat Japan and secure the final spot in the quarter-finals.
Lieke Martens scored her second goal of the game to secure a 2-1 victory over the 2015 runners-up after it was adjudged that Japan captain Saki Kumagai had blocked a shot with her arm.
With two minutes remaining, a shot hit Kumagai on the arm, which was down by her side, and referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the spot.
"It was a penalty, it struck my hand. Of course it is very hard to accept. I am sad but I know that that's football," a tearful Kumagai admitted after the game.
Martens kept her composure to convert from 12 yards, later accepting the penalty award at the end had been harsh on Japan.
"It's not our decision, we are really happy with that and sometimes you need a bit of luck,” she said.
While the Netherlands will take the win, the penalty reignited a fiery debate about the handball rule that has seemingly punished defenders to a new degree.
I feel so sick for Japan Women. They've played some wonderful football, and they've been stiffed by this ludicrous handball rule.— Chris Schilling (@schillingc) June 25, 2019
Fair play to Holland ... they did not play well. But they won. That’s all they will care about. Ruthless.— Jessica Fishlock MBE (@JessFishlock) June 25, 2019
Japan. You blessed us again with the most beautiful football. Please score though. @FIFAWWC - please change the handball rule. It’s dumb. Thanks.
In our 5-a-side we play handball is always free-kick, but that's because we don't have a ref. It stops arguments. World Cup has refs & VAR. Tonight's decision is another that gives impression refs and lawmakers never played football. Might as well put defenders in straightjackets— Glenn Moore (@GlennMoore7) June 25, 2019
Wow, Japan got robbed, that was not a handball and this time the ref didn’t even look at the VAR? #NEDJPN— Terry McGlynn (@hormiga) June 25, 2019
The referee has robbed Japan, there. How that can be viewed as an unnatural or intentional handball is beyond me. That’s exactly the sort of decision VAR should be overturning, not giving. #NEDJPN #bbcfootball— Chris Kerr (@kerrblimey) June 25, 2019
That's a rubbish penalty to give.— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) June 25, 2019
Seriously. Soft penalties starting to wreck this.#FIFAWWC
When they say; ‘The ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player who is close/near’, just how close do they mean?— Arlo White (@arlowhite) June 25, 2019
To me, this is VERY close. pic.twitter.com/WeKeZrfXSt
The Dutch advanced to the last eight and a meeting with Italy, who earlier on Tuesday eased past China 2-0 in Montpellier.
Yui Hasegawa had pulled Japan level on 43 minutes with a neat clipped finish after Martens' opener on 17 minutes, her clever back-heel flick from a corner finding a way into the corner of the goal after a deflection.
Both sides created further chances in the second half at Roazhon Park as an even contest appeared set for extra-time.
It was Japan who looked like finishing the game stronger, Hasegawa firing inches wide, Mana Iwabuchi hitting the side-netting and Hina Sugita hitting the crossbar.
Even after the penalty Japan pushed for a second equaliser as a goalmouth scramble was cleared by the Dutch, who held on to progress.
Kumagai, in tears after the game, was comforted by Netherlands rival Shanice van de Sanden.
The pure emotion of football. 😭— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) June 25, 2019
Jubilation and despair on the pitch after the full-time whistle, and a lovely moment between Saki Kumagai and Shanice van de Sanden. ❤️
FT: Netherlands 2 - 1 Japan. #OptusSport #NEDJPN #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/fWl1bOvGyB
Italy sealed their first appearance in the quarter-finals since 1991 courtesy of goals from Valentina Giacinti and Aurora Galli.
AC Milan forward Giacinti already had an effort chalked out for offside before she scored the opener on 15 minutes when pouncing on a rebound after China goalkeeper Peng Shimeng did well to deny Elisa Bartoli.
China went close to an equaliser when Li Ying's header hit the woodwork before halftime.
But substitute Galli, who came on in the 39th minute, struck four minutes after the break when she drove a low shot home from 25 metres out.