Argentina 2-2 South Africa: Albiceleste rescue a point after ragged first-half performance

Still without their maiden victory at a Women’s World Cup, Argentina looked to find form after their 1-0 defeat to Italy on Monday condemned la Albiceleste to a 10th successive FIFA Women’s World Cup match without a coveted three points. Meanwhile, South Africa were also on the losing side in their opening 2023 encounter, as the lowest-ranked nation in Group G conceded a heartbreaking 90th-minute match-winner against Sweden.

ARG: Correa; Braun, Mayorga, Cometti, Stábile; Falfán, Benítez, Gramaglia; Banini, Bonsegundo, Larroquette

RSA: Swart; Ramalepe, Mbane, Gamede, Cesane; Seoposenwe, Jane, Dhlamini, Hildah Magaia; Motlhalo, Kgatlana 

On the back foot with group favourites Italy and Sweden already possessing a three-point head-start after respective victories in their tournament openers, Argentina began assertively in Dunedin – visibly showcasing their intention to bombard the South African box with potential goalscoring chances at every able opportunity. 

Needing their more experienced players to step up to stand any chance of making their first-ever appearance in the knockout stages, South Africa were dealt a blow in the 20th minute as captain Refiloe Jane exited the match on a stretcher after being accidentally caught by the boot of Florencia Bonsegundo.

Nonetheless, things took a more positive turn for Desiree Ellis’ side only five minutes later, as following an agonisingly prolonged intervention from VAR, Glasgow City striker Linda Motlhalo was eventually allowed to emotionally celebrate the game’s opening goal. The forward tapped the ball into an empty net following Thembi Kgatlana’s expert run, and subsequent cross, having beaten the offside trap. Seeking to get back onto a level playing field before half-time, Argentina were inches from achieving their aim in the 38th minute – but Mariana Larroquette could only turn away in frustration as her ambitious cross-shot struck the post before bouncing away to safety to the relief of Banyana Banyana.

In response to losing the first-half battle in the middle of the park, Argentina manager Germán Portanova replaced both central midfielders during the interval in an attempt to potentially sway the pace of the second half in favour of la Albiceleste. Despite his substitutional gamble, it was South Africa who should have doubled their lead in the opening stages – but Kgatlana somehow managed to misfire Jermaine Seoposenwe’s pin-point delivery across the face of goal and wide of the post. However, Kgatlana would not make the same mistake twice, as in the 66th minute, the striker atoned for her earlier error by firing Seoposenwe’s cross into the roof of the net after the CF Monterrey forward had clinically caught Aldana Cometti taking too long on the ball.

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With South Africa thinking they were almost home and dry with just over a quarter-hour left in regulation time, Sophia Braun set up an intriguing conclusion to the contest with a stunning dipping long-range effort that flew into the top corner. Unbelievably, Argentina then turned the match on its head five minutes later, as Romina Núñez elegantly headed fellow substitute Yamila Rodríguez’s cross into the far corner beyond the desperate outstretched dive of Kaylin Swart.

South Africa’s untimely late collapse in concentration leaves Group G wide open ahead of Italy’s match with Sweden – with victory for either of those two nations allowing the three remaining sides to still excitingly fight it out for the final qualification position in the third round of group matches on Wednesday.

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