South Africa, Italy, agony and ecstasy


Sometimes we – the MSM (Mainstream Mailouts) – get too wrapped up in tactics and politics to remember what football is generally about: agony and ecstasy. Italy and South Africa kindly reminded us of these two polar-opposite emotions at the World Cup in Wellington on Wednesday. It was a game that had most things: a penalty, VAR drama, a late winner … and even a comical own goal via the unfortunate Benedetta Orsi. The Italian defender blindly passed the ball backwards, neglecting to realise her goalkeeper Francesca Durante wasn’t where she thought she would be, forcing both to helplessly watch as the ball trickled over the line to level the group-stage decider at 1-1. However, far worse was to come for Italy.

When Thembi Kgatlana tapped home from six yards in the second minute of injury-time to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory for Banyana Banyana, she was immediately surrounded by her euphoric teammates. They had forgotten that 11 minutes – eventually becoming 15 – had been added on and there was more work to be done. Time-wasting ensued but Italy couldn’t find an equaliser, allowing an eventual eruption of joy when the referee belatedly blew the whistle two hours and 11 minutes after the game originally kicked off. “They fought like warriors,” roared South Africa head coach Desiree Ellis. “They fought like the heroines that we know that they are. They fought to be historically remembered and they’ve made history not just getting our first win, but going to the round of 16 and that is freaking amazing.”

Fans with a message at the South Africa v Italy game

The key takeaway from fans at the game. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Last week South Africa made history by securing their first point at the tournament, having ended up with three defeats and one goal four years ago, but still left the field deflated after giving up a two-goal lead against Argentina. Prior to that they looked close to securing a famous draw against Sweden only for a 90th-minute Amanda Ilestedt goal to crush their dreams. No wonder they enjoyed such an outpouring of emotion at the final whistle here. The celebrations moved into the changing rooms; dancing and chanting were instigated by the Wafcon champions as the human embodiment of pure joy was paraded. Next up: the Dutch in the last 16. If South Africa manage to win that one, they’ll have to go a long way to top this latest party.


“I feel like we’ve been hugely underestimated. I don’t think anyone took us seriously. We’re resilient and we had a point to prove” – speaking of World Cup parties, Rebecca Spencer and Jamaica are having one themselves after dumping out Brazil with a 0-0 draw to reach the last 16 for the first time.

Jamaica celebrate after the game.

Jamaica get their celebrations on. Photograph: Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images


OK, so the USA USA USA weren’t inspiring during their draw with Portugal (yesterday’s Football Daily). But that paled in comparison to the tenor of the vitriol directed at our squad, who are human beings, after all. My disgust at the keyboard warriors reached its peak when one person on a social media disgrace posted that ‘this team has Tottenham energy’. Malice of that type has no place in the game” – Seth Kleinschmidt.

I suggest that should our side be knocked out early (in either the last 16 or quarter-finals), the exclamation mark-reduced designation should be altered again, to ‘USA Usa usa’. As for manager Vlatko Andonovski, even if the team miraculously flops upward into the semis or the final, he should ‘get his pink slip’ anyhow as soon as his return flight lands. Another way we express summary firing is ‘being handed your walking papers’. In this case I would be happy if he were handed a handsome handful of Barbie-pink ones, in honour of the true American success story of the summer (if things go on like this)” – Anthony Pearsall.

Send your letters to Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Seth Kleinschmidt.

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