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By Tshepo Ntsoelengoe

Football Journalist

Kgatlana – Banyana can reach World Cup final

'I think now anything is possible for us,' said Kgatlana

Banyana Banyana captain Thembi Kgatlana believes that South Africa can go to the final of the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup, after her stoppage time winner in a 3-2 win over France on Wednesday secured Banyana’s passage to the last 16.

The victory was South Africa’s first ever at a Fifa Women’s World Cup and enough to earn them a runners-up spot in Group G, and a meeting with the Netherlands at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday.

“I think now anything is possible for us,” said Kgatlana, who skippered the team in the absence of the injured Refiloe Jane. 

“We can go all the way to the final. We must just believe in ourselves and make sure we play our best football. We came into the tournament as African champions, so we had to show why we are the best on the continent.”

Banyana were ranked 57th in the world coming into this competition, well behind Group G competitors Italy, Argentina and Sweden. But they also led the world’s third ranked team Sweden before losing 2-1 to a last minute winner, and were 2-0 up against Argentina before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw.

“This is a big win,” added Kgatlana.

“We knew it was not going to be easy. We had to put up a good fight and we did exactly that. This is a good sign about women’s football in the country, it shows that we are improving.”

Banyana got off to a poor start against Italy, Karabo Dhlamini conceding a 12th minute penalty that was converted by Arianna Caruso. A dreadful error from Italy defender Benedetta Orsi, however, sending a back pass into her own net, drew Banyana level before half time.

Kgatlana set up Hildah Magaia to make it 2-1 to Banyana in the 67th minute but it looked like Italy, who only needed a draw, would break Banyana hearts as Caruso added another in the 74th minute.

But Magaia set up Kgatlana in stoppage time to send Banyana into wild celebrations.

“I am happy to have scored again,” added Kgatlana on her third goal of the tournament.

“But it was a team effort.”

Kgatlana is having a great competition after coming back from a ruptured achilles tendon, an injury she picked up in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year.

“The injury was very bad, but I just had to make sure that I recovered fully. I’m just happy to be back in the team and making an impact. I missed a lot of games and only got to prepare with the squad just two months before the tournament,” she continued. “

“But it’s good to be back and I’m just happy that I am able to help the team get good results.”