The national senior women’s football team has all but crashed out of the Women’s World Cup in France after losing 1-0 against China in their second Group B match at Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on Thursday.
Li Ying’s brilliant finish in the 40th minute was the difference between the two teams, which both came into the match on the back of losses in their opening matches. China had lost 1-0 to Germany, who have now qualified for the Round of 16 following another 1-0 win, against Spain on Wednesday, while South Africa had been beaten 3-1 by Spain.
The Asians’ win means they move up to three points – equal with Spain – who they meet in their third and last group stage match in Le Havre on Monday, in what will be a direct contest for automatic qualification for the knockout stages. Banyana, on the other hand, now have to beat Germany by a big margin in Montpellier on the same day to stand a chance of being one of the best third-placed finishers. Anything other than a win against the Europeans would see them heading back home winless.
China always looked like the better team in Paris, and South Africa needed a solid defensive effort to keep them out for most of the match. Desiree Ellis’ side did provide some offensive threat themselves, with Thembi Kgatlana’s pace being their greatest weapon. It was her shot from inside the box in the 77th minute that almost led to her team being awarded a penalty for what looked like a handball.
As decent as their defense was for the most part, captain Janine van Wyk and her partner at centre back Noko Matlou in particular, it was, however, cut open late in the first half when a sumptuous through ball from outside the box found Li, who beat Bambanani Mbane to the ball before stretching her left leg to guide it past a stationary Kaylin Swart in goal.
In fact, China almost had a second less than two minutes after their goal when all but a small portion of the ball crossed the line after hitting the crossbar, off Wang Shanshan’s header from a corner kick.
Monday’s matches will both kick off at 18:00.