Banyana Banyana ‘heroines’ fight to the death to secure first-ever World Cup knockout spot

Banyana Banyana ‘heroines’ fight to the death to secure first-ever World Cup knockout spot
Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's third goal during their Fifa Women's World Cup 2023 Group G match against Italy at Wellington Regional Stadium on 2 August, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Banyana Banyana showed grit and tenacity against an equally tenacious Italy outfit — winning 3-2 and securing a second-round date with the Netherlands.

It took them six World Cup matches. However, South Africa’s senior women’s side finally have a win at the Fifa Women’s World Cup. Banyana Banyana dug deep to defeat Italy 3-2 and secure passage into the second round of the ongoing global soccer spectacle.

South Africa will face the Netherlands in the second round.

Thembi Kgatlana — wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of injured skipper Refiloe Jane — netted the winning goal. This after Italian defender Benedetta Orsi gifted South Africa an equaliser to cancel out Arianna Caruso’s 11th-minute spot-kick at a windy Wellington Stadium.

What ensued was a slugfest between the two sides — each fully cognisant of the fact that victory would ensure they finish second behind Group G heavyweights Sweden.

Hildah Magaia had South Africans dreaming with her tidy finish on 67 minutes. However, as has been the case throughout this tournament — Banyana failed to protect their lead as Caruso nodded in from a corner kick seven minutes after the reigning African champions had grabbed the lead for the first time in the game.

Instead of capitulating following that setback, Desiree Ellis and her charges brought the fight to the Italians. The Europeans knew that a draw would see them through to the round of 16. For South Africa, it was win or head home.

Thembi Kgatlana of Banyana Banyana

Thembi Kgatlana of Banyana Banyana celebrates after Italy scored an own goal during the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Italy, in Wellington, New Zealand on 2 August 2023. (EPA/Ritchie B Tongo)

Win they did — with Magaia and Kgatlana combining to great effect to ensure success for South Africa. The latter had been a constant menace for the Azzurre defence throughout the match, with a finish from close range to break Italy’s hearts and send the South Africans gathered at the stadium into a frenzy.

From then on it was a nervous 10 minutes or so of added time, with Italy coming close to another equaliser — if not for the outstretched leg of Kaylin Swart.

The goalkeeper has been under the spotlight for the bulk of the tournament, with questions swirling on social media as to why she was being preferred by Ellis to regular No 1 Andile Dlamini. That crucial save late will undoubtedly leave her detractors stuffing themselves with humble pie. 

Without that contribution, Italy would have scored and probably landed the sucker punch on the South Africans.

As it is, the African champions join Nigeria in qualifying for the second round.

They fought like warriors,” coach Desiree Ellis, who was a founding member of the South Africa women’s side in 1993, said with tears in her eyes.

“They fought like the heroines that we know that they are. They fought to be historically remembered and they’ve made history not just getting our first win, but going to the round of 16 and that is freaking amazing.”

For their efforts and finishing second in their group, an extremely tough fixture against the Dutch awaits South Africa on Sunday. Nevertheless, Banyana Banyana will not be intimidated. Especially after such a mammoth effort against the Italians. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    A brilliant match and result for Banyana Banyana! They play such thrilling attacking football and have oodles of composure and skill on attack – stunning to see! Defensive frailties mean we’re probably not going much further, but who knows? We were within touching distance of a draw against world 3rd ranked Sweden, chucked a two goal lead against 28th ranked Argentina, and then came from behind to beat 15th ranked Italy! We’re ranked 54th, so matching – and beating – sides well above us in the FIFA standings. Last 16 match is in Sydney, so I’m hoping all the expats will come out and roar them on!

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    Great news, Well done Banyana Banyana. Congratulations. We knew you could do it.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Great job ladies! Imagine we make final four…

    If we take out Netherlands, we face winner of Spain v Switzerland. This is knockout, so we cannot play for draw

  • Cheryl Siewierski says:

    Great match result! Congratulations to Banyana Banyana. (I just wish they weren’t up against the Netherlands in this next round as I am supporting them too, but best of luck to them for the next round! I will be smiling either way.)

  • Thomas Cleghorn says:

    Great news & well played. With luck it will bring more eyes to bear on that corporation that is Danny Jordaan.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Well done to the womens team. They acheived what the pathetic mens team cannot seem to do

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