South Africa is out to cause another upset against Netherlands at the Women’s World Cup

“South Africans are excited and happy that we made history,” midfielder Kholosa Biyana said.

South Africa has already upset the odds to advance to the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup. Now it is aiming to spring another surprise against one of the tournament favorites on Sunday.

As captain Refiloe Jane says: “anything is possible” against Netherlands for a team that has become one of the big stories of this World Cup.

“You know, it’s knockout stages,” she said. “So you still want to keep on fighting as a team, keep on reaching for one another and not lose sight of any of the possibilities that lie ahead of us.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – AUGUST 02: Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa celebrates after winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group G match between South Africa and Italy at Wellington Regional Stadium on August 02, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Thembi Kgatlana’s stoppage-time winner against Italy secured South Africa’s place in the round of 16. The joyous scenes after the final whistle of that 3-2 win created some of the most memorable images of the World Cup so far.

“South Africans are excited and happy that we made history,” midfielder Kholosa Biyana said. “We’re the first team to do that in South Africa both male and female. So, it is a great achievement, not just for us, for female athletes and for women’s football in South Africa and in Africa.”

The World Cup has showcased the growth of the women’s game with a number of upsets, including the elimination of traditional powerhouses Germany and Brazil in the group stage. It has also highlighted the strength of women’s soccer in Africa, with three teams advancing to the knockouts.

Morocco and Nigeria have joined South Africa in the round of 16.

“You know, we have so much talent in Africa, that goes without saying,” Jane said. “We’ve got a group of players who are playing overseas, who learn so much from abroad, who come back in their national teams and show their knowledge. But if we can invest in our own countries in Africa, we can get so much out of the players, and we can advance in so many tournaments.”

South Africa faces a Dutch team in Sydney that topped Group E ahead of the back-to-back defending champion U.S. team.

South Africa’s Wendy Shongwe celebrates with the national flag after the Women’s World Cup Group G soccer match between South Africa and Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

It rounded off the group stages with a 7-0 rout of Vietnam and is favorite to advance to the quarterfinals.

But Netherlands coach Andries Jonker treats every game as a knockout and is preparing his team to take on the challenge presented by South Africa.

“They play with heart and soul. For the people and the country,” he said. “There is big heart in the team, fighting spirit, a couple of really good players… It is a dangerous opponent for us.”

Netherlands hopes to have forward Lineth Beerensteyn back from injury after she was hurt in her country’s opening game of the tournament against Portugal.

“Last week it looked as if she might play against Vietnam,” Jonker said. “In the end it didn’t work. It’s looking well, but my experience teaches me to be prudent.”

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