'Heart-crushing': Football star's beautiful moment with devastated opponent

The Women’s World Cup has witnessed one of the more beautiful moments of sportsmanship you’re ever likely to see.

Lieke Martens converted a 90th-minute penalty to break Japanese hearts and take the Netherlands through to the quarter-finals for the first time with a 2-1 win on Tuesday.

The Nadeshiko were the better team in the second half but were undone by yet another penalty in a World Cup dominated by spot-kicks, with Martens scoring after a Vivianne Miedema shot had struck the hand of captain Saki Kumagai from point-blank range.

Saki Kumagai and Shanice van de Sanden shared a beautiful embrace. Image: Getty

After the full-time whistle, Kumagai was absolutely shattered, bawling her eyes out on the pitch as she shook hands with her opponents.

One of those opponents was Shanice van de Sanden, her club teammate for Lyon, who grabbed Kumagai in her arms and held her while she cried, the devastation moving her to tears as well.

The heartbreaking scenes left many in tears.

‘Bit of luck’

The Netherlands, reigning European champions, go through to a quarter-final on Saturday against Italy, who defeated China 2-0 earlier in the day.

"It is history that we have made. We are really proud about that but we are not done yet here. We are really looking forward to the next game and we hope we can surprise more," said Martens.

She accepted the penalty award at the end had been harsh on Japan, adding: "It's not our decision, we are really happy with that and sometimes you need a bit of luck."

The controversial handball. Image: Getty

After winning the 2011 World Cup and losing in the final four years ago, Japan go home, ending Asian interest in France already.

Seven of the eight quarter-finalists are from Europe, with holders the United States the only exception.

The manner of Japan's defeat here drew sympathy from the crowd, with loud jeers greeting the final whistle.

"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," admitted a tearful Kumagai.

with AFP