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Banyana make history with World Cup qualification

South Africa ended years of heartbreak with a 2-0 Africa Women Cup of Nations semi-final victory over Mali in Cape Coast on Tuesday to seal a place at next year's World Cup in France.

Goals from Thembi Kgatlana and Lebogang Ramalepe sealed the win that sets up a final showdown with Nigeria in Accra on Saturday, but that was not the story of the night for this Banyana Banyana team.

Having narrowly missed out on World Cup qualification before, they will join the part in France next year, which sparked scenes of wild celebration from the side at the final whistle.

Captain Janine van Wyk broke down in tears, unable to contain the emotion after striving for so many years to reach the global showpiece event.

The victory over Mali was well deserved as Banyana controlled the game from the first whistle, barely giving their opponents a sniff at goal.

The South Africans again proved themselves the most technically proficient side in the competition, even if they lack the power and physicality of other sides.

Mali tried to bully them into submission, but their ability to move the ball around the pitch with slick, accurate passing proved a mightier weapon.

After Van Wyk and Refiloe Jane had shots go wide early on, there were shouts for penalties at either end, although Tanzanian referee Jonesia Kabakama appeared to get both decisions correct.

Banyana took the lead just past the half-hour mark as the lethal Kgatlana scored her fifth goal of the tournament, and kept up her record of netting in every match, though there was not much to admire in the strike.

Jane's cross was not cleared and when the ball fell to Kgatlana, she scuffed her shot badly. However, that actually worked in her favour as the ball squirmed away from Mali goalkeeper Adoudou Konate and into the corner of the net.

Jane had a chance to doubled the advantage but shot wide, before Mali's only two real chances of the game came from errors by South African goalkeeper Kaylin Swart.

She twice failed to deal with high balls, but was aided by her defence who were able to clear before the Mali players could profit.

The insurance goal came 10 minutes from the end as Ramalepe's cross-cum-shot drifted fortunately into the net over the head of Konate.

It will matter not to the South Africans though, as they were able to easily play out the remainder of the game and achieve their pre-tournament goal of booking a place in France.

Whatever happens in Saturday's final in Accra will be a bonus, although they would surely like to seal a first continental title and beat Nigeria for the second time in the tournament.

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