The victory was enough to book the African champions a place in the knockout stages, a historic feat for coach Desiree Ellis’s side.
Banyana went behind after Arianna Caruso scored from the penalty spot in the 11th minute. However Italy defender Benedetta Orsi kicked the ball into her own net to gift hard pressing South African team with an own goal 32 minutes into the game. Hildah Magaia scored her second goal of the tournament and gave Banyana a 2-1 lead seven minutes after an hour mark. Caruso completed her brace and levelled matters for Italy 15 minutes from time. Deep into stoppage time, captain Thembi Kgatlana’s executed finish in the 92nd minute sealed a hard-fought 3-2 victory for the South African women.
Coach Desiree Ellis was on cloud nine after her charges fully paid off and ensured Banyana Banyana with a spot in the round of 16.
“I said we were going to fight for every ball. We said we are not going to give up and they were absolutely magnificent. This victory is for everyone back home, people that got up in the early hours of the morning to support us-that is for them,” jubilant Ellis said.
South Africa finished behind Group G leaders Sweden, who made it 3 wins from 3 after cruising 2-0 over Argentina.
Banyana will play their next match against Netherlands on Sunday (04:00 South African time).