PARIS (Reuters) - Forward Thembi Kgatlana is hoping her inside knowledge of China can spur South Africa to victory in their women’s World Cup Group B fixture at the Parc des Princes on Thursday.
Along with national team mate Linda Motlhalo, the reigning African Women’s Player of the Year plays for Beijing BG Phoenix in the Chinese Super League, and is confident she can add to her stunning goal in the 3-1 defeat by Spain last Saturday.
“I know most of the girls in the (China) team, I have played against them. I know where my chances are,” Kgatlana said.
“It is a crucial match, we have two games left to get six points, which would be huge for the country and for ourselves. China also dropped points when they lost (1-0) to Germany, so between us and them we are both desperate.”
Kgatlana, 23, gave South Africa the lead against Spain, their first World Cup goal, with her pace and trickery on the ball a constant threat.
She is one of the quickest players at the World Cup and her pace often means she is well ahead of team mates on the pitch, leaving her to create her own opportunities.
“The coaches always tell me that I get into good positions, so I should sometimes just try and take a shot as the keeper might not be ready.
“I think that is what happened against Spain... I had two chances before that one (the goal). I tried to play and get in a shot, but the keeper was ready.
“I think on this occasion she was not and she got caught by surprise. By the time she reacted it was too late.”
South Africa lost 2-0 to China at the 2016 Olympic Games, a fixture in which nine of the current squad started, including Kgatlana.
But three years on she says they will be better prepared this time, and personally she is aiming for an improved performance.
“I was young with no experience. But if you look from then to now, I have grown a lot. I have more courage to be able to do things on my own.
“I think I got five chances at the Olympics against them but I was too young, with too little energy. I got into the spaces but couldn’t finish. It will be different now.”
It was certainly an improved performance from when they played China in 2003 and lost 13-0, which remains a record defeat for the national side.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge