Sweden fought back and struck late on to grab a 2-1 win over South Africa in their Women’s World Cup opener on Sunday in the Wellington rain.
The third-ranked Swedes conjured up the winner in the 90th minute through defender Amanda Ilestedt, much to the relief of their fans in the miserable conditions.
A goal early in the second half by Hildah Magaia — in which she suffered a match-ending injury — gave the African champions hope of an upset.
But that was cancelled out by Barcelona star Fridolina Rolfo soon afterwards, before Ilestedt’s late intervention, heading home from close range. It denied South Africa a first point ever at the World Cup.
Sweden dominated possession but seemed thrown by the cold, slippery conditions, along with energetic defending from their lower-ranked opponents.
The Swedes, regarded as one of the tournament favourites but with a history of near-misses at the World Cup, delivered a host of wayward crosses in the first half.
They also looked prone to being caught out by the speed of their opponents.
Both teams barely created a half-chance before the interval but the game burst into life soon afterwards.
South Africa’s 48th-minute goal was set up Thembi Kgatlana, whose speed got behind the defence before her cross was parried by goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.
It was bundled in by Magaia, who was tripped at full speed in the process by Jonna Andersson and tumbled into the goal netting.
The 28-year-old Korean-based striker was treated for several minutes and exited the game soon afterwards, receiving a standing ovation from South African supporters during a distraught circuit of the field.
Rolfo’s 65th-minute equaliser was a messy one, scuffing her shot after South Africa failed to clear a Johanna Kaneryd cross.
The shot struck defender Lebohang Ramalepe, who was initially credited with an own goal but it was later awarded to Rolfo — her 26th goal for her country.
Ilestedt, who was a constant aerial threat, then leapt highest at a corner to bring heartache for South Africa, who lost all three matches in their maiden World Cup appearance four years ago.
Group G rivals Italy and Argentina play in Auckland tomorrow.
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