Hurt Banyana soldier on, take aim at China

South Africa's forward Thembi Kgatlana celebrates after scoring Banyana's first World Cup goal. Banyana lost 3-1 to Spain in their opener at the Oceane Stadium in Le Havre, northwestern France.
South Africa's forward Thembi Kgatlana celebrates after scoring Banyana's first World Cup goal. Banyana lost 3-1 to Spain in their opener at the Oceane Stadium in Le Havre, northwestern France.
Image: Damien MEYER / AFP

If it wasn't for video assistant referee (VAR) decisions, it'd be completely suitable to say Banyana Banyana punched above their weight in the 3-1 loss to Spain in their World Cup opener in France at the weekend.

It took 25 minutes for the tournament's debutants, Banyana, to net their first World Cup goal courtesy of a wonder strike by Thembi Kgatlana.

After taking the lead, SA grew in confidence and started to play with liberty. But in the second half things turned sour as Banyana conceded two penalties in the space of 15 minutes, with the last spot-kick the result of a review through VAR.

The technology review didn't only award Spain the second penalty, but it saw Banyana defender Nothando Vilakazi sent off.

The defeat left SA bottom of Group B. Banyana next face China, who were beaten 1-0 by Germany, in another group match on Thursday (9pm SA time).

"I don't think in all essence it's a really fair result. I felt we could have gotten more and maybe we should have gotten more, but I am still very proud of the team," said coach Desiree Ellis after the game.

The Banyana mentor couldn't be drawn into crying foul over the rather debatable VAR decisions, insisting she was going to have a closer look at the incident and urged her troops to be disciplined.

"We showed the fighting spirit that this team is known for. We'll have a look at the footage and see [the incident that resulted to Vilakazi being sent off], but [VAR] decisions are here to stay. We have to stay disciplined," noted Ellis.

Kgatlana, the reigning CAF Women's Footballer of the Year, dedicated her stunning goal to the entire team.

"I'm very excited to score my first World Cup goal. It's not only for myself, but for the whole Banyana team," said Kgatlana. "Some girls were nervous, but after I scored that goal, you could see the nerves going down, because everyone was happy that their hard work was paying off."

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