Women’s WC PIX: Sweden unstoppable; SA secure knockout spot

Clinical Sweden top Group G after 2-0 win over Argentina

A much-changed Sweden side reached the Women’s World Cup last 16 with a perfect record after Rebecka Blomqvist’s second-half header and substitute Elin Rubensson’s 90th-minute penalty helped them beat Argentina 2-0 on Wednesday.

Blomqvist met Sofia Jakobsson’s cross with a fantastic header in the 66th minute to put the third-ranked Swedes firmly on course to advance as Group G winners, with Rubensson sealing the win with a superbly taken spot kick.

“We had to have some patience,” Blomqvist said. “Argentina defended well and closed off a lot of spaces. We felt at halftime that if we just continued doing what we were doing we’d break them down, and more space opened up towards the end.”

Sweden will next face holders United States in a blockbuster clash in Melbourne on Sunday – a rematch of the Olympic quarter-finals in 2021 when the Europeans won 3-0 en route to the final.

“The USA are a very strong team, very good at championships. They show that year after year,” added Blonqvist, saying Sweden were not favourites for the tie.

“We have, in my opinion, good self-confidence and we will go in wanting to win that game, but we won’t underestimate the USA.”

Having already secured qualification after winning their first two games, Sweden only needed a point to top the group and coach Peter Gerhardsson made nine changes to the side that thrashed Italy 5-0.

Only defenders Amanda Ilestedt and Magdalena Eriksson retained their places and Sweden were far from their rampant best, with Olivia Schough’s weak free kick their only shot on target in a disjointed first half.

Blomqvist finally got the breakthrough after the hour mark and was brought down inside the penalty area by Gabriela Chavez in the closing minutes to allow Rubensson to drive the resulting penalty into the roof of the net.

Argentina, who lost midfielder Florencia Bonsegundo to injury minutes before the break, needed a victory to stand any chance of going through but never really troubled the Swedish defence or goalkeeper Jennifer Falk at Waikato Stadium.

They remain without a win in their four World Cup appearances and finished bottom of the group, with South Africa advancing as runners-up after beating Italy 3-2 in the other group game in Wellington.

South Africa book spot in knockout stages with last-gasp win over Italy

Thembi Kgatlana scored a last-gasp winner to give South Africa their first ever Women’s World Cup win with a 3-2 victory over Italy that sent them through to the last 16 of the tournament at the expense of their opponents.

Striker Kgatlana struck two minutes into stoppage time to set up a clash with the Netherlands in Sydney on Sunday and broke the hearts of the Italians, who had only needed a draw to progress.

Italy had appeared to salvage the draw they needed when Arianna Caruso scored from a corner in the 74th minute but were left to rue what could have been after a series of late missed chances.

“They fought like warriors,” said an emotional coach Desiree Ellis, who was a founding member of the South Africa women’s side in 1993.

“They fought like the heroines that we know that they are. They fought to be historically remembered and they’ve made history not just getting our first win, but going to the round of 16 and that is freaking amazing.”

The Italians had opened the scoring when Karabo Dhlamini tripped Italy forward Chiara Beccari just inside the box in the 10th minute and Caruso put the penalty into the bottom left corner of the net.

South Africa equalised in the 32nd minute through an own goal from Benedetta Orsi, who did not check where goalkeeper Francesca Durante was before making a back pass.

Banyana Banyana went ahead for the first time in the 67th minute when Kgatlana’s neat inside pass found Hildah Magaia free behind the defensive line and the forward swept it into the net.

Caruso grabbed her second of the match seven minutes later from a corner when the ball caught her hip in a goalmouth scramble and cannoned into the bottom right corner of the net.

It looked as though Italy might hang on for the draw in a frantic finale but Magaia’s pass found Kgatlana in the box and the striker smashed the ball into the net to secure second place in the group behind Sweden.

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