Sweden defeated Argentina to confirm its progress to the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup.
A meeting between Sweden and the US in the first knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup was confirmed on Wednesday as the Scandinavian side beat Argentina 2-0.
In the other Group G game, Italy and South Africa played out a wildly entertaining thriller which saw arguably the most bizarre goal of this World Cup and confirmed the South African side’s spot in the knockout stages.
Banyana Banyana’s 3-2 win at the Wellington Regional Stadium marked the African nation’s first win ever at a Women’s World Cup having qualified twice. The scenes at the end of the match demonstrated perfectly the raw emotion of World Cup football, with players on both sides visibly overcome with emotion.
World No. 3
While it was not the Swedes most scintillating performance, the world No. 3 in FIFA’s rankings exercised considerable control, dominating possession throughout against the South American team at the Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, in New Zealand.
The opening goal came from a well-worked move which saw the ball find Sofia Jakobssen on the right wing after a perfectly-timed run, which was matched by her delivery. Rebecka Blomqvist met the cross with aplomb to effectively end Argentina’s hopes of qualifying.
Four of Sweden’s nine goals at the tournament have now been headers, though a coolly slotted penalty from substitute Elin Rubensson wrapped up the Scandinavian team’s victory
Sweden knew before the game started that its date with destiny against the US was all but sealed, given it would have required a 10-goal swing between themselves and Italy to surrender top spot in the group, but looked determined to finish proceedings in as smooth a manner as possible ahead of Sunday’s showdown with the four-time World Cup champion.
This will be the seventh World Cup meeting between the two teams and the first in the knockout stages, according to FIFA.
The US has won four of the previous six World Cup meetings, according to FIFA, but Sweden won the last meeting between the two teams in July 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics – a 3-0 win in the group stage.
Sweden also drew with the US in 2015 and also beat them in 2011 – the last time any team defeated the the US Women’s National Team inside regulation at a World Cup. The US defeated the Scandinavian side in the group stage in 2019.
South Africa makes history
Over in Hamilton, Banyana Banyana had to come from behind after Arianna Caruso put Italy ahead through a penalty early on.
South Africa responded impressively as Robyn Moodaly hit the post with a superb shot before a calamitous own goal just past the half hour restored parity.
Italian defender Benedetta Orsi looked to pass back to goalkeepr Francesca Durante under pressure from the South African forwards – but only succeeded in rolling the ball into the corner of the net. Durante wore a look of bemusement in the aftermath of the moment.
Benedetta Orsi is consoled by her teammate Lucia Di Guglielmo after scoring an own goal against South Africa.
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
The second half saw something of an onslaught from South Africa, who continually regained the ball high up the pitch and got numbers forward en masse.
However, the final product was lacking until Hildah Magaia finished a slick move in the 67th minute to send Banyana Banyana fans into rapture and put the team on the brink of a historic first ever World Cup win.
That joy was short-lived, however, as South Africa’s fallibility from set pieces was exposed.
Cristiana Girelli’s flick-on was touched in by Caruso, sparking more wild celebrations before a lengthy VAR check threatened to dampen proceedings, but the goal stood.
The game still had time for one more twist – just minutes after Gireilli missed a gilt-edged chance to wrap up proceedings, captain Thembi Kgatlana latched onto a square ball from Magaia to make it 3-2 in the stoppage time.
Head coach Desiree Ellis urged calmness from her charges as they played out what turned out to be 15 minutes of added time. Italy had its final chance through Valentina Giacinti which went just over the crossbar.
Kgatlana has now been involved in five of South Africa’s seven goals in Women’s World Cup history – but none will be as memorable as that last gasp winner. Ellis’ team now face the stern test of 2019 finalists the Netherlands in the first knockout round of the competition.
The win means this tournament has seen four victories from African nations – double the previous record (1999, 2015 and 2019).
Failure to defeat Portugal and top Group E on Tuesday has seen the US lose its tag as the favorite to win the World Cup, according to sports data group Gracenote.
As things stand, the US will face Sweden in the round of 16 on Sunday, pitting FIFA’s first and third-ranked teams in the world against each other.
On the other side of the draw, England potentially has the most favorable run to the title and will not face any of the top seven-ranked teams in the world before the semifinals at the earliest.
As a result, the European champion now has a 17% chance of winning the the tournament, Gracenote forecasts, ahead of the US (15%), Sweden (11%), the Netherlands and host Australia (both 9%).
Wednesday’s result means Argentina remains winless in Women’s World Cup history having qualified on four occasions – though its performances in a tough group at this edition will provide some solace for the future.
George Ramsay and Jill Martin contributed reporting.