FIFA Women's World Cup: Sweden rally to edge South Africa

Amanda Ilestedt
Sweden's Amanda Ilestedt reacts after scoring the winner. Photo: Reuters/Amanda Perobelli

Wellington: Amanda Ilestedt's 90th-minute winner gave Sweden a 2-1 win over South Africa in their Women's World Cup Group G match on Sunday after a fortuitous equaliser from Fridolina Rolfo had cancelled out Hildah Magaia's opener.

Under pouring rain in the New Zealand capital, the lanky Ilestedt jumped highest and squeezed the ball home to save her team's blushes after they were left frustrated by the African champions for much of the opening hour of the game.

The result left the third-ranked Swedes top of their group, before Italy and Argentina play their opener in Auckland on Monday.

"South Africa made it hard for us, but I think we grew into the game and got better and better. In the second half we played better, but a victory in the opening game is what counts," Ilestedt said.

South Africa, ranked 54th, were looking for their first ever World Cup win on their second appearance at the tournament, having exited in the group stage in 2019 without picking up a point.

They kept their more fancied opponents at bay in the first half, as a frustrated Sweden side controlled possession but could not find the finishing touch, and threatened on the counter.

Captain Refiloe Jane's brilliant long-range attempt floated over the crossbar, while Sweden struggled to create clear-cut chances, with Filippa Angeldal drawing the only save from the goalkeeper in the first half with a tame effort.

Zecira Musovic had parried away Thembi Kgatlana's shot but Magaia got to the rebound before Sweden defender Jonna Andersson and bundled the ball over the line two minutes after the break, scoring South Africa's second ever World Cup goal.

But Johanna Rytting Kaneryd's cross skewed off defender Lebohang Ramalepe and bounced into the net off Rolfo to hand the Swedes a lifeline in the 66th minute.

Peter Gerhardsson's side pushed for a winner but they were denied by South Africa's resolute defending, until Ilestedt met Kosovare Asllani's corner with a strong header.

Jamaica hold France

France's hopes of a winning start to their campaign were thwarted by a hardworking Jamaican side in a 0-0 draw in the opening Group F clash at Sydney Football Stadium.

The French, semifinalists at last year's European Championship, were unable to get their fluent passing game going as the Jamaicans hassled and harried them to earn their first World Cup point after three defeats in their 2019 debut.

Forward Kadidiatou Diani almost clinched the winner for France in the 90th minute but her powerful header hit the bar then the post before bouncing out to the delight of the Jamaicans in the crowd of nearly 40,000.

Fifth ranked France take on Brazil in the match that was expected to decide Group F in Brisbane on Saturday, while Jamaica will face Panama in Perth later the same day without striker Khadija Shaw, who was sent off in stoppage time.

Van der Gragt heads home winner

The Netherlands kicked off their Group E campaign with a 1-0 win over debutants Portugal at Dunedin Stadium, thanks to a first-half goal from Stefanie Van der Gragt that was awarded on a VAR review.

Netherlands' Stefanie van der Gragt, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring the vital goal. Photo: AFP/Sanka Vidanagama

The Dutch edged Portugal 3-2 a year ago in the European Championship group stage, but this time the Iberian side were no match for the team in their trademark orange and did not have a shot on target until the 82nd minute.

The Dutch scored in the 13th minute from a corner kick when Van der Gragt rose above the defence at the far post to head home, but the flag went up for offside when the lineswoman deemed Jill Roord to be obstructing the goalkeeper.

However, the offside decision for interfering with play was overturned on a VAR review by the referee after she watched a replay on the monitor and the goal stood, sparking a second celebration from the Dutch team.

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