Argentina comes back to deny South Africa its first World Cup win

South Africa's Linda Motlhalo, left, and Argentina's Aldana Cometti compete for the ball during the Women's World Cup Group G soccer match between Argentina and South Africa in Dunedin, New Zealand, Friday, July 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga)

South Africa was less than 30 minutes from its first ever Women’s World Cup win with a two-goal cushion, but Argentina didn’t go away.

The two lower-ranked teams in Group G played to a 2-2 draw that saw Argentina erase a 2-0 lead in the second half. The Banyana Banyana, ranked No. 54 in the world by FIFA, at least recorded their first World Cup point after losing three straight in their first appearance in 2019 and falling 2-1 to Sweden in the tournament opener, but they were on the verge of so much more.

South Africa’s first goal was a weird one. Thembi Kgatlana ran downfield after her team intercepted a pass and looked so clearly offside, Argentina didn’t take her attack seriously. Both defenders near her raised their arms and didn’t start running for a moment, leading to an impossibly easy goal for Linda Motlhalo.

VAR, however, noticed one Argentina defender who had been running forward didn’t quite cross Kgatlana until after the ball was on the way, giving South Africa first blood.

South Africa’s confidence got even higher when Kgatlana scored in the 66th minute, but then Argentina started to wake up. A game that had been fairly even by time of possession began skewing La Albiceleste’s way, leading to two goals in five minutes to even the match and knock the air out of South Africa.

Sophia Braun scored the first goal in the 74th minute, then Romina Núñez knocked in a beauty for the equalizer in the 79th.

The result leaves both teams needing a win, and possibly some help, in their third and final matches to reach the knockout rounds. South Africa will face Italy, which beat Argentina 1-0, while Argentina will get No. 3 ranked Sweden. Both figure to be underdogs.

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