Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup story: Sweden escapes upset thanks to 90th minute goal

Sweden pulled off a dramatic, come-from-behind victory on Sunday in its World Cup opener against South Africa. Amanda Ilestedt scored the game winner in the 90th minute to secure a 2-1 victory and 3 points for Sweden, ranked No. 3 in the world.

While Sweden controlled possession for much of the game, No. 54 South Africa nearly pulled off a major upset in rainy and misty conditions at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand.

Three minutes into the second half, and with Swedish players looking as if play hadn’t yet resumed, South African striker Hildah Magaia capitalized on a rebound to make it 1-0. But Magaia injured herself in the process, falling hard into the back of the net, and was ultimately subbed out a few minutes later.

Sweden notched the equalizer in the 66th minute. A cross in the box initially appeared to ricochet off the foot of a defender, but the goal was ultimately credited to Fridolina Rolfo.

With the two teams even, Ilestedt notched the game winner in the 90th minute, capitalizing off of the 11th corner of the night and heading the ball past the fingers of goalkeeper Kaylin Swart. (A video highlight of the game winner is embedded below.)

South Africa managed to secure a corner during the six minutes of injury time that followed, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

With the win, Sweden continues its group play streak. The Swedes haven’t lost a group game at the Women’s World Cup since 2003. Meanwhile, South Africa — which made its Women’s World Cup debut in 2019 — is still searching for its first ever point after losing all three group stage games four years ago.

In the lead-up to this year’s Women’s World Cup, the South African team — nicknamed Banyana Banyana — boycotted a World Cup send-off game, citing issues with its federation after a $30,000 FIFA payment had not been included in player contracts. Ahead of their tournament opener against Sweden, South African captain Refiloe Jane told reporters that disputes with the federation had been resolved prior to players arriving in New Zealand.

Today’s World Cup results

  • Sweden 2, South Africa 1
  • Netherlands 1, Portugal 0
  • France 0, Jamaica 0

More World Cup news

  • Jamaica held France to a scoreless draw, a remarkable performance for a Jamaican team that criticized its federation ahead of this year’s tournament, citing issues with training facilities and compensation.
  • In yet another close game, the Netherlands, the 2019 runner-up, defeated World Cup debutant Portugal, 1-0. The game winner, scored by Stefanie van der Gragt, came in the 13th minute.

South Africa’s women’s national soccer team — known as Banyana Banyana — boycotted Sunday’s World Cup send-off game at Tsakane Stadium in Brakpan, South Africa.

Multiple issues — from World Cup compensation to field conditions to the quality of the opponent — have been cited as reasons for the boycott.

SABC Sport, a division of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, reported that players boycotted the send-off match against Botswana after they demanded that their national federation — the South American Football Association (SAFA) — provide a more suitable venue for the friendly game, like one that was used for the 2010 FIFA (Men’s) World Cup.

“The players said they want to discuss (issues) with (SAFA). Firstly, there are conditions of employment and issues such as health and safety at Tsakane Stadium, where the pitch is not okay. We’ve raised this issue with them, and they said they will revert,” South African Football Players’ Union president Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe told SABC Sport.

The field at Tsakane Stadium reportedly does not meet FIFA standards and South Africa’s Premier Super League teams do not play games at the venue as a result.

South African players also reportedly took issue with the quality of their opponent; Botswana is ranked 150th in the World and has never qualified for the Women’s World Cup.

In a video posted to the Players’ Union twitter account, World Cup compensation is also cited as one of the sticking points for the World Cup players.

SABC Sport reported that the South American Football Association (SAFA) threatened to send players home if they didn’t compete. When the World Cup players refused to back down ahead of the game, SAFA quickly assembled a back-up team to play the game.

“I had to put a team on the field so I put a team on the field today,” South Africa’s head coach Desiree Ellis told SABC Sport, though she deflected questions about the boycott and situation with the federation.

After a one-hour game delay due to the turmoil, the back-up team went on to lose to Botswana, 5-0.

South Africa’s World Cup send-off match was only confirmed days ago. “We just want to thank the Football Association getting us a send-off match. We know it has been a difficult task, we are really grateful and we ask the fans to come out in their numbers to support this team and to give us a fantastic send-off,” Ellis said in a press release announcing the game.