Penalties were in the spotlight in the two crucial quarterfinals in the women’s tournament. Greece overcame Russia in a shootout and returned to the semis after 2012, while Hungary’s goalie stopped one against Italy in the dying seconds to secure the title-holders’ spot in the SF. Italy didn’t make the top four at the women’s Europeans for the first time in history.
Greece needed 11:06 minutes to get on the scoreboard but once they scored their first – Russia could gain a 0-1 lead in this phase –, they started rolling and deep into the third they were 4-1 up. However, Russia responded the same way, after a drought lasting 14:54 minutes they netted four unanswered goals to take over the lead once more at 5-4, with 3:57 to go. But the Greeks also found their way back, in 55 seconds Nikoleta Eleftheriadou converted a man-up then sent a magnificent lob to the Russian net (this was her third) and led 6-5 with 1:38 from time. Russia went all-in, earned back-to-back 6 on 5s and finally Olga Gorbunova equalised with 27 seconds remaining. The decision was left to the penalties: the shootout earned the Russians the Olympic berth two years ago, apparently against Greece, and the Olympic bronze against Hungary – but this time the Greeks prevailed.
The next QF was just as thrilling and as hotly contested as any game between Italy and Hungary. It was a match of twists and turns, the results of the quarters show something from the story: 3-1, 1-4, 4-1, 1-4 – but reality was even more exciting. Hungary came back from 7-9 in the fourth, at 9-9 Rita Keszthelyi showed the best quality of a true leader, leaving behind the demons of the missed penalty she drove herself towards the goal, managed to collect a lengthy ball, and sent it home with an incredible back-handed shot among three defenders, to complete a 0-3 Hungarian rush with 29 seconds remaining. But there was one more twist in the story: just ten seconds on, Italy earned a penalty. Roberta Bianconi took the ball but Edina Gangl guessed the side right in the goal, caught the ball and sent the Magyars into their fourth straight semi-finals.
2014 champion Spain and 2016 runner-up Netherlands enjoyed an easy cruising to the semis while beating France and Germany respectively.