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Women's world cup: South Africa looking to get off the mark against Argentina

Women's world cup: South Africa looking to get off the mark against Argentina
Bayana Bayana   -  
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South Africa

**Hildah Magaia has given South Africa belief it can win at the Women’s World Cup.**Magaia scored for South Africa in its tournament opener, but was injured on the play and couldn't finish the game. Sweden went on to win 2-1, but the performance gave South Africa confidence it can get a victory.

South Africa plays Argentina in a Group C match on Friday in Dunedin. Both teams are looking for their first win — Argentina dropped a 1-0 opener to Italy.

“Knowing that we went toe-to-toe with the No. 3 country in the world and it took a superhuman effort from them to get the result, we’re very positive for the next two matches,” South Africa coach Desiree Ellis said after the Sweden loss.

“We’re not underestimating the teams, but we know our capabilities.” Magaia and her coach both said she would “definitely” be able to play against Argentina. Good thing, because she's the Banyana Banyana's spark.

The forward scored on a nice hustle play against Sweden by pouncing on a shot that bounced off goalkeeper Zecira Musovic’s gloves and hit Magaia’s thigh as she sped into the Sweden goal. Just a small problem: Magaia fell on the metal bar at the back of Sweden’s goal as the ball hit the net.

She came out of the game minutes later, the medical staff wrapped her wrist, and she missed the final 25 minutes. Sweden capitalized on her absence to win the match.

“We call her the breadwinner when she gets in front of the goal. When she gets in front of the goal, nine times out of 10, she’ll put it in,” South African coach Desiree Ellis said Thursday. “She’s very influential and very versatile and very multifunctional. But we don’t focus too much on one individual.

"We don’t want to rely on one individual. We pride ourselves on teamwork.”

Magaia started her career with the rural club team The Brazilian Ladies, also an early training ground for teammates Lebogang Ramalepe and Noko Matlou. After the owner and coach of that team died, Magaia practiced daily with a local men’s team for two years. She never appeared in a match and went on to play for Tshwane University of Technology women’s soccer team.

After graduating, she signed with Möron BK in Sweden in early 2021 and scored 12 goals in her 22 matches. That experience paid off in her World Cup goal.

“It did truly feel special,” said Magaia, who now plays in South Korea. “I was looking forward to playing against Sweden.”

Magaia’s goal against Sweden wasn’t the first time she’s come through in big moments for her country. She also scored twice in the 2022 Women’s African Cup of Nations final to push South Africa to a 2-1 victory over Morocco. She was the tournament's joint-highest scorer.

“The motivation I take is from the WAFCON, on how we did, and how I did, and upping the intensity a bit,” Magaia said in a news release before South Africa’s opener in New Zealand. “The stage is not the same. This is the highest stage, and it needs one to up their game and be ready for anything.”

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