Banyana Banyana made history by reaching the final 16 of the Fifa World Cup for the first time after defeating Italy 3-2 in Wellington on Wednesday.
Banyana finished second in Group G with this win, their first in the global showpiece, and will meet the winners of Group E in the last 16.
Both teams required a win coming into the game, with Banyana squandering a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Argentina on Friday and Italy being thrashed 5-0 by Sweden on Saturday.
South Africa, who were missing injured captain Refiloe Jane, started slowly.
In the 11th minute Karabo Dhlamini fouled Chira Beccari inside the box, resulting in a penalty for Le Azzurre, which Arianna Caruso slotted past a helpless Kaylin Swart.
Because of that early setback, SA needed to dig deep if they were to win. And they rushed out of the gate, attack after attack.
Following a bad clearance from the Italian defense, captain Thembi Kgatlana tested the waters first, hitting a ball high and wide of the mark.
Robyn Moodlay came close to equalizing for Banyana, but her shot rattled the crossbar after another sloppy clearing went into her way after Dhlamini’s square pass.
Banyana eventually pulled level following an under-pressure period. Unfortunately, Benedetta Orsi hit a back-pass too hard, which rolled past her own goalie Francesca Durante and into the net.
But soon thereafter, Le Azzurre nearly restored their lead after Beccari rose high in the box to connect with a corner kick which she headed against the upright. With the scoreline favouring the Italians at the break, Banyana had to put their best foot forward from the outset in the second half to search for goals.
And after a timely save from Swart early in the second half, striker Hidah Magaia found the lead for Banyana after an assist from Kgatlana inside the box. But that was short-lived as Caruso punished Banyana’s sloppiness in defence with a glancing header from a corner kick late in the game.
In stoppage time, though, Banyana proved their prowess as Kgatlana, benefiting from a Magaia assist, sent the African Champions to the promised land with a cool tap-in!