What could have been a celebratory day for the South Africa women’s soccer team turned into a painful one. And penalties are to blame.
South Africa was called for two penalties inside the box, which resulted in two goals off penalty kicks for Spain. Those calls helped Spain erase a 1-0 deficit on its way to a 3-1 comeback victory against South Africa on Saturday in Group B action in Le Havre, France.
Making its Women’s World Cup debut on Saturday, South Africa led 1-0 as the 70th minute approached. It would have been a shocking upset, with South Africa entering the tournament ranked No. 49 in the world and Spain at No. 13 in the world rankings.
But a handball call on South Africa captain Janine van Wyk led to Spain’s first penalty-kick goal off the foot of Jennifer Hermoso in the 69th minute.
Then a V.A.R. (video assistant referee) review ruled Nothando Vilakazi had her spikes up as she made contact with a Spanish player in the box, which allowed Hermoso to knock in a second penalty-kick goal in the 82nd minute to give Spain a 2-1 lead.
One of the bright spots for South Africa was that it scored on its first-ever shot on goal at a Women’s World Cup, with forward Thembi Kgatlana hitting the back of the net on a shot from just outside the box in the 25th minute. Kgatlana was named the best player in Africa in 2018.
South Africa continues its first appearance in the World Cup against China on Thursday at 3 p.m. EST, which will be the teams’ second match of the group stage. China fell to Germany 1-0 on Saturday.