Belgium came from a goal down to defeat Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana 2-1 in the 5th/6th place play-off of the Cyprus Women’s Cup at the GSZ Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus
Despite the two teams playing their fourth matches in eight days, the games started at a very furious pace with South Africa dictating terms.
In the 13th minute Noko Matlou found herself face to face with the opposition goalkeeper but her shot was saved.
Five minutes later Matlou made amends when she found herself unmarked again in the box and this time she made no mistake. Despite the efforts of the Belgian defence to clear it, they kicked into the net to give South Africa a 1-0 lead.
This was Matlou’s 64th goal in 140 international appearances – and perhaps a special one as she has been brought in as a striker in this match, a position she enjoyed great success in in the past before converting to defence.
In the 33rd minute the Banyana Banyana defence was caught napping, and Belgium captain Tessa Wullaerts punished them with a well-taken shot, that hit the top corner of the net.
Sensing danger, South Africa pulled off Regina Mogolola and brought in Lebohang Ramalepe to strengthen the right side of defence, where Belgium was having a free run.
The end-to-end game continued in the second half with sides looking for a winner.
Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk had a go at the Belgium keeper but her shot was saved.
Next was Matlou to try her luck when she was free on goal, but she was also denied by the keeper – it was brave-goalkeeping by Evrard as she through herself into the shot to keep the score line unchanged.
In the 60th minute, Seoposenwe found a hole in the Belgium defence but Davina Philtjens saved her shot off the line.
The Europeans were now dictating terms, with South Africa chasing the shadows. They could have scored in the 83rd if Yana had kept her composure – after she beat her marker, she ballooned her shot with the keeper at her mercy.
But Yana did make up for it with four minutes left on the clock – she was unmarked in the box and met a beautiful cross with a great header to beat Swart and give Belgium a 2-1 lead.
Ellis made several changes but they did not have the desired effect – Chantelle Esau coming in for Melinda Kgadiete, Zanele Nhlapho making her first appearance in the tournament as she took the place of Linda Motlhalo, and Jermaine Seoposenwe making way for Kgaelebane Mohlakoana.
In the end, Belgium held on for victory to take fifth place in the tournament as they pushed South Africa all the way, especially in the second half.
Banyana Banyana finish in position six – the same as in their inaugural tournament in 2009.
This was sweet revenge for the Europeans as they lost 1-0 to South Africa in the same competition in 2015.
This was South Africa’s first loss in the tournament, and also the first time they conceded goals.
In other matches, Finland took 11th place following a 2-0 victory over Hungary, the Czech Republic finished 9th after defeating Slovakia 5-2, Austria came out 7th as they edged out Wales 3-2 on penalties (both were tied at 1-1 after regulation time), while Korea DPR were 3rd – they beat Switzerland 2-1.
The final between Spain and Italy was scheduled for later in the evening.
The South Africans return home on Friday, 9 March and expected to land at the OR Tambo International Airport at 10h35.