South Africa had progressed to the round-of-sixteen for the first time in their history after a promising performance in the group stages of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – but a clash against the Netherlands, who claimed silver four years ago, would prove to be difficult for Desiree Ellis’ side.
NED: van Domeselaar; Janssen, van der Gragt, Spitse; Brugts, van de Donk, Groenen, Roord, Pelova; Martens, Beerensteyn
RSA: Swart; Dhlamini, Matiou, Mbane, Ramalepe; Biyana, Gamede; Magala, Motlhalo, Seoposenwe; Kgatlana
With just minutes on the clock, South Africa looked to have a golden opportunity early on as Gamede stepped in to intercept Pelova’s pass, playing it through to Seoposenwe. In turn, she looked to find Kgatlana – but the striker’s effort on goal was an easy one to save for van Domselaar.
It was through a corner in the ninth minute that the Netherlands took their lead, as Spitse’s delivery found the head of Beerensteyn in the penalty area. The striker’s header had been saved well by Swart, but only parried back away into the crowded box, where Jill Roord was able to thump the ball over the line and hand the Orangeleeuwinnen an early lead.
South Africa certainly weren’t going to go out quietly though, as they continued to create chances for Kgatlana. Seoposenwe played the forward through on goal with a neat pass, with the striker darting through the Dutch defence before scraping the crossbar with an effort that flew marginally high of the target.
But the Banyana Banyana were prone to simply switching off, and that very weakness allowed van de Donk to jink through the defences and thump a low effort towards goal – forcing Swart to make the save, when she should never have been needed to.
Despite having lost two of their key players – Seoposenwe and Mbane – to injury throughout the first half, South Africa were able to fashion two great chances on the stroke of half-time. Biyana was able to create space for herself in midfield, threading a through ball into Kgatlana. Her curling strike was parried away well by van Domselaar, who did incredibly well to smother the rebounded effort too.
Andries Jonker’s side thought they had doubled their lead just ten minutes into the second half, as Beerensteyn drew out defenders before playing Pelova forward on the flanks. The Arsenal starlet found Martens waiting on the penalty spot, who turned to rifle an effort past Swart – but a fractional offside in the build-up saw the goal chalked off.
With twenty minutes remaining though, LIneth Beerensteyn found that all-important second strike. Pelova did well to intercept a South African free-kick delivery, hoofing the ball up the pitch for Martens to latch onto. The forward did just that, spraying a pass out for Beerensteyn – who unleashed a speculative effort from range. Swart came out to make what should have been a routine save, but the ball simply glided through her arms and into the back of the net!
Beerensteyn thought she’d bagged a brace ten minutes later after getting on the end of a chipped pass from Brugts, but despite encouraging Swart to venture from her goalmouth and then finding the back of the net, the assistant referee’s flag was promptly raised for an offside offence.
The Banyana Banyana simply weren’t able to respond, and they bow out of just their second FIFA Women’s World Cup as a consequence. It’s a disappointing result for Desiree Ellis’ side, who had looked so promising in the first half – but they just weren’t able to create the required chances in the second period, undoubtedly affected by the loss of Seoposenwe’s attacking output.
It’s the Netherlands that progress then, and they have the privilege of already knowing their next opponents. The Oranjeleeuwinnen will face Spain on Friday, with the game kicking off at 2am UK time.