South Africa sends Italy packing from Women’s World Cup with chaotic 3-2 win

Thembi Kgatlana turns away to celebrate South Africa's winning goal in the 3-2 win over Italy.

Thembi Kgatlana turns away to celebrate South Africa's winning goal in the 3-2 win over Italy. Photo: EPA

South Africa has sensationally dumped Italy out of the Women’s World Cup, coming from a goal down twice in a chaotic and pulsating 3-2 win in Wellington.

Thembi Kgatlana scored a 92nd-minute winner to seal the African champions’ progression, finishing Jermaine Seoposenwe’s cutback to spark frenzied scenes in the New Zealand capital on Wednesday.

The livewire striker was Bunyana Bunyana’s stand-in captain and thumping heartbeat all night, willing her nation forward against a side 38 places higher on the FIFA rankings.

Coach Desiree Ellis knew only a win would be enough to get out of their group, but trailed early to Arianna Caruso’s penalty.

Benedetta Orsi’s shocking own goal put South Africa back on terms and when Hildah Magaia scored a second – assisted by Kgatlana – the African champions had fresh hope.

Caruso, however, doubled up by getting the last touch on a 74th-minute corner kick that levelled the scores at 2-2 and reversed the live ladder, which would have enabled Italy to squeak through to the round of 16.

That was until Kgatlana’s thumping run and finish in injury time that  created a slice of history.

Until Wednesday night the South Africans had never won a match at the tournament, let alone qualified for the knockout rounds.

After surviving a scarcely believable 16 minutes of injury time, they claimed their place in the knockout stage to set up a clash with the Netherlands in Sydney on Sunday.

They are the second African nation to progress after Nigeria won through in second place of Group B, behind Australia.

The Italians, quarter-finalists in 2019 after their group defeat of the Matildas, head home after two horrible nights in Wellington.

They were battered 5-0 by Sweden last week but were expected to rebound against the world No.54.

South Africa’s achievement was all the more meritorious given it was without inspirational captain Refiloe Jane, who was injured in their 2-2 draw with Argentina.

The thrilling and unpredictable match, which was played in wild and bitterly cold winter winds, produced many chances with both sides hitting the post.

In Group G’s other match, Sweden beat Argentina 2-0 to finish on top, setting up a clash with reigning champions the United States.


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