After Sweden’s thrashing of Italy, door open for Banyana in group G

Banyana Banyana players and staff during a team motoivatioal activation in Wellington on on the July 30 2023.
Banyana Banyana players and staff during a team motoivatioal activation in Wellington on on the July 30 2023.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Sweden’s 5-0 World Cup thrashing of Italy on Saturday has left the door open for Banyana Banyana to progress from group G.

Matters are still not entirely in South Africa’s hands, but their prospects are looking up and the requirements fairly simple.

First, Banyana, who are in third place in group G with a point from a defeat to Sweden (2-1) and the draw against Argentina (2-2) where they somehow blew a 2-0 lead, need to earn their first ever World Cup win beating Italy at Wellington Regional Stadium on Wednesday (9am SA time) to stand a chance of progressing. And it seems a fairly good chance.

Had Italy drawn against Sweden goal difference with the Azzurri would have been a factor if they lost to Banyana. But now, if South Africa beat the Italians, Banyana will have four points and Italy three (from their 1-0 win against Argentina).

That leaves only Argentina as a factor for second place. The South Americans meet Sweden at Waikato Stadium on Wednesday (also 9am). If Argentina draw or lose — results that seem likely given the form of the third-ranked Scandinavians — Banyana progress with a win against Italy.

If Argentina shock the Swedes, then goal difference comes into play between Banyana and the South Americans.

At present, South Africa and Argentina are both on a -1 difference. So if both were to win their final group games by the same margin, they would be separated by number of goals scored, where Banyana (who have four at present to Argentina’s three) would be superior.

Alternately, if either won by a bigger margin, or Argentina won in a high-scoring game, then the goal difference and the goals scored scenario would change.

Perhaps the most important factor now favouring Banyana, though, is the psychological one.

Italy may be demoralised after such a huge loss against Sweden. Much will depend on the opening exchanges. If Banyana get on top of the Europeans their motivation could well sag.

On the other hand, Italy are desperate for a win, and of they score early will become extremely hard to beat. A draw might also be enough for the Azzurri, but they would then also rely on Argentina losing or drawing against Sweden. A draw will not be enough for Banyana. 

Overall, what it all means is there is a chance for the South Africans. It all depends on how they react to being presented it, and probably some of coach Desiree Ellis’s decisions, on Wednesday.

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