Match ends, Argentina 2, South Africa 2.
Argentina manager German Portanova told his team to “play with the love that optimises our football” before they produced a stunning comeback from two goals down to draw with South Africa.
South Africa were on course to pick up a first Women’s World Cup victory in a pulsating encounter in Dunedin but in the end they had to settle for their first point after Argentina scored twice within five second-half minutes.
Knowing defeat would take Argentina to the brink of elimination, they threw everything at Desiree Ellis’ side in the second half and were rewarded for their endeavour.
Substitute Romina Nunez headed in Argentina’s second goal after a superb half-volley from Sophia Braun had stunned South Africa.
“I told them to play, have fun, dribble and play their best games. That’s why we are here. They are wonderful players,” said Portanova.
“I wanted to see them playing with that love that optimises our football. We were a bit slow in the first half. In the second half we changed and there was a huge feeling. We moved ahead with self-confidence.
“The thing I most admire about these players is the constant desire to grow. I’m really emotional about what they achieved.”
Glasgow City winger Linda Motlhalo gave South Africa the lead after being teed up by Thembi Kgatlana, who was shown to have stayed onside following a video assistant referee (VAR) review.
Kgatlana should have scored after the break when she sliced Jermaine Seoposenwe’s curling cross wide from close range, but the two combined later for South Africa’s second goal.
It was South Africa’s first point at a Women’s World Cup but for large parts of the game, they looked set for a historic win before their final Group G match against Italy.
Argentina face Sweden next, ranked third in the world, but have at least kept their tournament alive.
“We knew [today’s game] was at a favourable time slot for Argentina TV so it was important for us to promote women’s football and see us playing well,” added Portonova.
“They needed to see happiness in our eyes. I believe that at certain times we achieved this. They had self-conviction and were proud of the national shirt they were wearing.
“It was full of Argentinians in the stadium too. It is around 4am in Argentina for the Sweden game. Please follow us, wake up early – we will play our best match possible to win these three points.”
‘It comes back to haunt us every time’
It was a frantic and remarkable contest in New Zealand where South Africa’s fearlessness and aggressive pressing dominated the first half.
Motlhalo and Kgatlana had starred, causing problems for Argentina and combining effectively to give South Africa what appeared to be a strong lead.
Argentina boss Portanova reacted by making several substitutions and it was two of those who linked up for their second goal – Yamila Rodriguez’s cross was headed in expertly by Nunez.
There had been few chances for Argentina in the opening hour but Paulina Gramaglia’s attempted cross clipped the woodwork when it sliced over goalkeeper Kaylin Swart’s head at the end of the first half.
Instead the majority of the chances fell South Africa’s way and during lengthy first-half added time, they had a goal ruled out for offside, before Motlhalo struck dangerously wide of the post.
Racing Louisville forward Kgatlana spurned a few chances before netting South Africa’s second goal and that ultimately proved costly when Nunez, who had earlier volleyed it over the bar from close range, headed in Argentina’s equaliser.
“That’s the problem – we don’t take our chances. It comes back to haunt us every time,” said South Africa boss Ellis.
“How many chances did we create? How many final third entries did we have that we did not complete? We were in complete control of the game and we just needed to finish it off.
“We lost the ball a lot in certain areas. It’s criminal. It hurts a lot. We have to take responsibility – it has to be better.
“That was a great opportunity to put us a step ahead [in the group] but it is not all lost. We have put ourselves in this position by not taking our chances.”
South Africa face Italy in their final group match but could be without captain Refiloe Jane – who was taken off on a stretcher.
Jane’s replacement Kholosa Biyana picked up another yellow card and is ruled out against Italy with suspension.
- 14MayorgaBooked at 45mins
- 8FalfánSubstituted forNúñezat 45′minutes
- 16BenítezSubstituted forCruzat 45′minutes
- 19LarroquetteSubstituted forLonigroat 69′minutes
- 9GramagliaSubstituted forRodríguezat 59′minutes
- 6CesaneSubstituted forHolweniat 54′minutes
- 15JaneSubstituted forBiyanaat 25′minutesBooked at 43minsSubstituted forMakhubelaat 54′minutesBooked at 56mins
- 10MotlhaloSubstituted forKgoaleat 83′minutes
- 11KgatlanaSubstituted forKgadieteat 83′minutes
- Anna-Marie Keighley
Second Half ends, Argentina 2, South Africa 2.
Foul by Aldana Cometti (Argentina).
Melinda Kgadiete (South Africa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Florencia Bonsegundo (Argentina).
Kaylin Swart (South Africa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Bambanani Mbane.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Jermaine Seoposenwe (South Africa).
Offside, South Africa. Melinda Kgadiete tries a through ball, but Hildah Magaia is caught offside.
Estefanía Banini (Argentina) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Tiisetso Makhubela (South Africa).
Hand ball by Estefanía Banini (Argentina).
Substitution, South Africa. Nomvula Kgoale replaces Linda Motlhalo.
Substitution, South Africa. Melinda Kgadiete replaces Thembi Kgatlana.
Attempt missed. Yamila Rodríguez (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Florencia Bonsegundo.
Romina Núñez (Argentina) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Sibulele Holweni (South Africa).
Aldana Cometti (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa).