Banyana Banyana made history midweek by sealing their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup knockout berth, thanks to a breathtaking 3-2 victory over Italy in their final group game.
Goals by Hildah Magaia and Thembi Kgatlana, along with an own goal from Benedetta Orsi, not only secured progression for the first time but also ensured a first-ever World Cup victory for Coach Desiree Ellis’ troops.
South Africa, thus, finished second in Group G behind Sweden, who topped the pool following their 2-0 victory over Argentina.
Up next for the reigning African champions is a crunch Round of 16 clash against the Netherlands at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday, in what will be their first-ever knockout game.
In Banyana Banyana’s opening group game against Sweden, which they lost narrowly 2-1, Sundowns Ladies duo Lebogang Ramalepe and Bambanani Mbane started in defense, while Andile Dlamini, Melinda Kgadiete, Karabo Dhlamini and Tiisetso Makhubela were unused substitutes.
In the second game against Argentina, Ramalepe and Mbane retained their places, while Karabo Dhlamini was called upon to start. Later on, Melinda Kgadiete made her debut as she was brought on. In the end, South Africa secured their first-ever World Cup point in an entertaining 2-2 draw against the South Americans.
In the final group game against Italy, Ramalepe, Mbane and Dhlamini were all included, while Tiisetso was handed a late entrance. South Africa would go on to secure a late victory in dramatic style, sealing their progression in the tournament.
Sundowns Ladies coach Jerry Tshabalala expressed his happiness at the fighting spirit displayed by Banyana Banyana during the group stage.
“It was a great performance from the team and the technical staff; the team has done well. Taking into consideration that they come to this tournament as African champions, there is a huge pressure to deliver. They are expected to prove themselves on this bigger stage, but overall, the team has risen to the occasion admirably. In the previous World Cup, we only managed to score one goal and earned no points. However, this time around, we not only got out of the group stages but also scored an impressive 6 goals. It’s a good stepping stone for us to build upon.”
As the Round of 16 clash against the Netherlands approaches, the Sundowns Ladies coach expresses strong confidence in Coach Desiree’s team’s ability to progress.
“We are drawn against a very tough opposition, but I firmly believe the girls can pull something out of that game. They have already shown their potential when they played against the European teams in the group stage and their fighting spirit was remarkable. We have what it takes to compete at this level and I have full confidence in the team’s abilities to give a strong performance in the upcoming match against the Netherlands.”
Aside from South Africa, two other African sides (Nigeria and Morocco) have also qualified for the Round of 16, making it a historic tournament for the continent. It marks the first time that three representatives from Africa are in the knockout phase of the prestigious competition.
Congratulations to the Banyana Banyana for making history Down Under and we wish them all the best against the Netherlands!!!