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South Africa players celebrate after their team advanced to the knockouts during the Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 match between South Africa and Italy at Wellington Regional Stadium in New Zealand, August 2 2023. Picture: CATHERINE IVILL/GETTY IMAGES
South Africa players celebrate after their team advanced to the knockouts during the Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 match between South Africa and Italy at Wellington Regional Stadium in New Zealand, August 2 2023. Picture: CATHERINE IVILL/GETTY IMAGES

Banyana Banyana defied the odds and did themselves and all South Africans proud by beating Italy and advancing to the knockout stage of the Fifa Women’s World Cup.

Banyana Banyana won 3-2 in a nerve-jangling encounter at the Wellington Regional Stadium in New Zealand on Wednesday to seal their place in the last 16 of the tournament.

Thembi Kgatlana who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of injured skipper Refiloe Jane, netted the winning goal.

Having lost their opening game against Sweden and drawing against Argentina, Banyana had to beat the Italians to remain in the competition. 

“They fought like warriors,” said coach Desiree Ellis, a founding member of the SA women’s side in 1993.

Days before leaving for the tournament World Cup, the team had threatened to boycott a send-off match against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium in Brakpan over the condition of the pitch.

Players were also disgruntled about unfair treatment when compared with their male counterparts, including financial incentives.

Despite those challenges, Banyana Banyana rose to the occasion and now face the Netherlands. 

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