South Africa and China were both looking like they would secure historic upsets against vaunted European opponents in their respective opening matches in Group B in the Women’s World Cup before things fell apart, according to The Stat Zone. South Africa was holding a 1-0 lead until two late penalties and a red card doomed them to a 3-1 defeat against Spain, while China was holding one of the tournament favorites in Germany scoreless until a late goal by Giulia Gwinn gave the German women the victory. Now, both teams meet in their Group B showdown with their future in the tournament on the line, and expectations will be high for both sides to secure the three points.
The women of South Africa were looking like they were going to make their first match ever in the Women’s World Cup their most famous one after star Thembi Kgatlana put the team ahead at 25 minutes. Things all fell apart for the inexperienced team in the final from the 70th minute onward, however, as they conceded two penalties in the span of a horror 13 minutes that also saw defender Nothando Vilakazi sent off with a red card, with Lucia Garcia ending any hope for a comeback with a Spain goal in the 89th minute.
Suffering such a collapse for such a young team on the global stage is hard to come back from, particularly after only five days. Without the suspended veteran Vilakazi in defense, South Africa will have to turn their opening 70 minutes into 90 with their pre-tournament weakness in the back even more amplified.
China, on the other hand, made the most of their resolute and organized defense to hold a Germany team ranked second in the world scoreless until the 66th minute, a disappointing result but one that could possibly hint at a gameplan for China if they make it out of Group B. While there were some positives from the result, it can’t be denied that China’s recent history against non-Asian teams has been brutal and questions remain about whether the Chinese women have enough quality in attack to compete with teams without turning matches into defensive slugfests.
With Jiahui Lou and Yao Wei unlikely to participate in the match after experiencing injuries in the opening match, China will need to see more out of their depth if they expect to avoid an upset and make it past South Africa.
Date: Thursday, June 13
Time: 8 p.m. (BST), 3 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: BBC Red Button (UK), Fox (U.S.)