France, South Africa earn place in last 16 of FIFA Women’s World Cup

France secured a spot in the last 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup by defeating debutant Panama 6-3, despite conceding a goal just 67 seconds into the game. Kadidiatou Diani scored a hattrick for fifth-ranked France, who finished at the top of Group F with seven points. Jamaica took second place in the group after a goalless draw against Brazil.

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After a draw against Jamaica, France picked up their momentum with a 2-1 victory over Brazil. However, their match against Panama started with a surprise when Panama’s captain, Marta Cox, scored a spectacular goal from a long-range free-kick in the second minute. It was Panama’s first-ever goal in a World Cup match, and Cox was visibly emotional in her celebration.

Despite the early setback, France quickly regrouped and launched an attacking response. Maelle Lakrar scored in the 21st minute to level the score. France continued to dominate the match and took the lead in the 28th minute with Diani finding the back of the net. She scored a second goal via penalty after a handball by a Panama player in the box. Just before halftime, Lea Le Garrec scored to extend France’s lead.

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In the second half, France maintained their attacking intent, and Diani completed her hat-trick by converting another penalty kick after yet another handball by a Panama player in the box.

Panama managed to score consolation goals, with Yomira Pinzon converting a penalty and Lineth Cedeno heading home late in the match when France’s intensity had eased. However, Vicki Becho scored deep into stoppage time to complete the goal feast for France.

Meanwhile, in a surprising turn of events, South Africa secured a spot in the last-16 stage of the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup with a historic 3-2 victory against Italy.

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With Sweden already qualifying for the knockout stage, Italy and South Africa, along with Argentina, competed for the remaining spots in the round of 16. South Africa had previously earned their first-ever point in the Women’s World Cup during their second match against Argentina.

Italy, looking to bounce back from a 5-0 defeat against Sweden, drew first blood in the 11th minute. Arianna Caruso converted a penalty after Chiara Beccari was fouled in the box. However, South Africa equalised in the 32nd minute when Benedetta Orsi scored an own goal, putting the ball into her own net.

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In the second half, South Africa continued their attacking efforts and took the lead in the 67th minute when Hildah Magaia scored after receiving a clever pass from Thembi Kgatlana.

Italy quickly responded as Caruso found the net again after a corner in the 70th minute. However, South Africa staged a dramatic late comeback as Kgatlana and Magaia combined once more, with the former scoring the winning goal from close range.

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With four points from three group games, South Africa are in second place and have advanced to the next stage. Meanwhile, Sweden topped the group with a 2-0 win against Argentina. They face defending champions the United States next, while South Africa play the Netherlands.

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