South Africa stun Italy to reach last 16 with first WWC win

Thembi Kgatlana scored a last-gasp winner to give South Africa their first ever Women’s World Cup win with a 3-2 victory over Italy that sent them through to the last 16 of the tournament at the expense of their opponents.

Striker Kgatlana struck two minutes into stoppage time to send her team to Sydney for a clash with the Netherlands on Sunday and broke the hearts of the Italians, who had only needed a draw to progress.

Italy had appeared to salvage the draw they needed when Arianna Caruso scored from a corner in the 74th minute but were left to rue what could have been after a series of late missed chances.

The Italians had opened the scoring when Karabo Dhlamini tripped Italy forward Chiara Beccari just inside the box in the 10th minute and Caruso converted the penalty with a confident shot into the bottom left corner.

South Africa equalised in the 32nd minute through an own goal from Benedetta Orsi, who did not check where goalkeeper Francesca Durante was before making a back pass.

South Africa's Thembi Kgatlana celebrates after scoring her side's third goal during the Women's World Cup Group G soccer match between South Africa and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana scored a late winner to beat Italy

Banyana Banyana went ahead for the first time in the 67th minute when Kgatlana’s neat inside pass found Hildah Magaia free behind the defensive line and the forward swept it into the net.

Caruso answered seven minutes later from a corner when the ball caught her hip in a goalmouth scramble and cannoned into the bottom right corner of the net.

It looked as though Italy might hang on for the draw in a frantic finale but Magaia’s pass found Kgatlana in the box and the striker smashed the ball into the net to secure second place in the group behind Sweden.

Italy's Giulia Dragoni reacts after loosing the Women's World Cup Group G soccer match between South Africa and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Italy needed just a draw to qualify, but instead exit at the group stages

Bertolini: Emotions played an important factor

Italy head coach Milena Bertolini explained the mood of her camp, saying: “I’m sure that the game against Sweden and all the goals we conceded affected our trust, our confidence, our peace of mind. Today the emotional side was actually an important factor.”

“I think that South Africa played better than us and deserved to win.”

“It’s a fig that is hard to swallow, but I believe that as far as the future of Italian female soccer is concerned, we do have a future.”

What’s next?

Group G runners-up South Africa will face the Netherlands in the last 16 on Sunday August 6 in Sydney; kick-off 3am.

What is the schedule?

The group stage has begun and runs over a two-week period finishing on August 3. Group winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16, which takes place from August 5 to August 8.

The quarter-finals, which will be held in Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney, are scheduled for August 11 and 12.

The first semi-final will then be played on August 15 in Auckland, with the other semi-final taking place on August 16 at the Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final on August 20.

A third-place play-off will be played the day before the final on August 19 in Brisbane.

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