SYDNEY (AP) — Netherlands had just advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup, yet star midfielder Danielle van de Donk looked inconsolable.
Her yellow card in the second half of the 2-0 win over South Africa on Sunday means she will serve a one-match suspension. Her tears were likely in realization that she may have played her final match of the tournament if the Dutch lose to Spain in the quarterfinals.
But Netherlands coach Andries Jonker had no time for any negativity.
“We’ve come with the conviction that we can beat everybody. And if you say we can beat everybody, it includes all teams, South Africa, but also Spain,” he said. “So it means it’s not the last game for Danielle. We want to beat Spain, then she can come back into the tournament.”
The Dutch certainly appear to be contenders again after losing to the United States in the World Cup final four years ago.
After finishing above the Americans in Group E this time, they overcame South Africa at Sydney Football Stadium through goals from Jill Roord in the first half and Lineth Beerensteyn in the second.
Spain is among the title favorites, and backed up its billing with a 5-1 win over Switzerland in the round of 16.
Netherlands had to work harder for its place in the last eight, with goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar producing a player-of-the-match performance with a string of saves to keep South Africa at bay.
Her teammates were quick to acknowledge her game-saving efforts, rushing to embrace her after the final whistle.
“We felt we could have won this game and if I look back, we should have with the opportunities that we had, but we didn’t take them,” South Africa coach Desiree Ellis said. “If you look at their goalkeeper getting the player of the match, it tells you how well we played.”
Netherlands was also aided by an error from South Africa keeper Kaylin Swart, who let Beerensteyn’s weak effort squirm out of her grasp and over the line.
Just like van de Donk, Swart appeared devastated after the final whistle as teammates and staff consoled her.
“Nobody in the world has a perfect game,” Ellis said. “You are going to make a mistake and unfortunately that happened, but she kept us in the game as well.”
South Africa had already exceeded expectations by advancing to the knockout stage for the first time after its dramatic 3-2 win over Italy in its final group game.
But the goals from Roord in the ninth minute and Beerensteyn in the 68th ended its unlikely run.
Netherlands went close immediately before Roord’s goal when Esmee Brugts swung in a curling shot that Swart had to push over the bar.
Roord struck from the resulting corner.
Sherida Spitse’s cross was headed toward goal by Lieke Martens, which forced Swart into action again. But from her save, the ball looped in the air and Roord headed over the line from close range for her fourth goal of the tournament.
Van de Donk was close to extending the lead but was denied by the feet of Swart from inside the box, and Kgatlana tested Van Domselaar as South Africa showed its threat on the break.
Kgatlana went closer still when through on goal just before the halftime, but couldn’t find a way past Van Domselaar. The South Africans ended the half the stronger as Kgatlana repeatedly burst beyond the defense.
Its response to going behind was even more impressive, considering it had to contend with injuries to Jermaine Seoposenwe and Bambanani Mbane in the first half.
The Netherlands lineup regained control after the restart and thought they’d doubled their lead when Martens turned and converted in the 54th. But their celebrations were cut short when it was ruled out on VAR review for offside.
South Africa offered less threat as it struggled to get possession and Netherlands scored its second after Swart’s error.
Next up for Netherlands is Friday’s highly anticipated match against Spain in Wellington, New Zealand.
“It’s a massive game and I’m really excited about it because Spain, it’s a really strong team,” Beerensteyn said. “But I also know that we are a strong team, so it will be like a real final actually.”
South Africa, meanwhile, exits after making a big impression on a tournament where some of the traditional favorites like Olympic champion Canada, Germany and Brazil were eliminated in the group stage.
“Very proud,” Ellis said. “I think as a team we need to hold our heads very high.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
More AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup