Banyana Banyana reached the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup knockouts following a 3-2 victory over Italy at Wellington Regional Stadium on Wednesday.
It was an emotional outing for Banyana who won their first-ever World Cup match and it was important to leave them second in Group G and progress to the last-16.
Italy went ahead 11 minutes into the contest through Ariana Caruso before Banyana were handed a reprieve when Benedetta Orsi beat her own goalkeeper in the 32nd minute.
It turned out to be a dramatic second half when the African champions went ahead through Hildah Magaia’s 67th strike.
But as they looked on course to victory, they were then haunted by the ghost of failing to defend their lead when they allowed Caruso to deflect into the net Valentina Giacinti’s header with 16 minutes to go.
Thembi Kgatlana then reclaimed the lead for South Africa in stoppage time and this time around they passed the test of holding on to their lead.
Facing a demoralised Italy smarting from the 5-0 hammering by Sweden, South Africa found it hard to capitalise on that psychological aspect although they went on to win.
Italy’s penalty came when Karabo Dhlamini was adjudged to have fouled Chiara Beccari at the edge of the box but hope was restored for Banyana through Orsi’s own goal.
Italy were more threatening and dominated play in the first half which ended in a 1-1 tie.
But Banyana looked improved early into the second stanza with some promising attacks only to be let down by their finishing.
They were finally rewarded when Magaia fired home after getting to the end of a Kgatlana feed.
But their celebrations were short-lived when Caruso restored parity when Banyana failed to defend a corner kick.
It was now a nail-biting finish when Magaia set up Kgatlana who thrust them into the lead again.