SA striker Dirkie Chamberlain opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a fine piece of individual skill before USA skipper Lauren Crandall equalised from a penalty corner a minute before half-time (29th minute). Three minutes after the changeover (33rd minute) Katelyn Falgowski put USA 2-1 up. Seven minutes into the final quarter (52nd minute) Kathleen Sharkey took USA to 3-1 and two minutes from full-time (58th minute) Jill Witmer made the final scoreline 4-1.

For the amateur South Africans against the full-time USA girls it was always going to be a battle, and one could not fault the effort put in by the underdogs.

SA face world number 29 Uruguay at 1pm Sunday (SuperSport 8) and the South Africans must get at least a point to put them in position to qualify ahead of the South Americans for a place in Thursday’s quarter-finals.

In the third minute skilful play won USA a penalty corner (PC) but SA keeper Sanani Mangisa made a fine stick save to her right from Rachel Dawson’s drag-flick. In the sixth a defensive error saw Chamberlain drive towards goal from outside the 23-metre area, exhibiting great 3D skills in flipping the ball over defenders’ sticks before making no mistake with her shot (1-0).

Mangisa made a solid save in the ninth before excellent defence repelled another incursion. Taking a 1-0 lead into the second quarter, SA continued to defend with determination and skill.

USA were piling on the pressure and on the cusp of half-time (29th minute) Crandall fired in the equaliser from a PC. The 1-1 score at the changeover was the least the Americans deserved after spending 80% of the time in the SA half.

Three minutes into the third quarter (33rd minute) Falgowski rounded off a quality move down the right to put USA 2-1 up.  Mangisa two more key saves to keep SA within striking distance. Three minutes from the end of the third quarter, midfielder Illse Davids did well to cross from the left to Bernie Coston and SA were awarded a PC. However, after the USA appealed, the TV umpire reversed the decision.

Soon after, SA striker Tanya Britz fired in a shot and Coston forced a PC but Lisa Deetlefs’ “goal” was disallowed for being too high on the initial strike. Just 22 seconds from the close of the third quarter, USA won a disputed PC but SA successfully defended what was the seventh set-piece against them.

The statistics were overwhelmingly in favour of USA and in the 52nd a fine through-ball from Michelle Vittese found Paige Selenski, who fired in a cross that was deflected in at the far post by Sharkey (3-1). Two minutes from full-time (58th) Jill Witmer scored the Americans’ fourth goal for the 4-1 final scoreline.

SA team – Starting: Sanani Mangisa (GK), Lisa Deetlefs, Nicole Walraven, Quanita Bobbs, Celia Evans, Nicolene Terblanche (capt), Shelley Russell, Jade Mayne, Bernie Coston, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lilian du Plessis. Rolling subs: Anelle van Deventer (GK), Line Malan, Erin Hunter, Illse Davids, Kelly Madsen, Candice Manuel, Tanya Britz.           

South Africa’s Pool B matches: SA 1 Ireland 4; USA 4 SA 1; SA vs Uruguay (Sunday, 1pm on SS8); Germany vs SA (Tuesday, 5pm on SS7). Quarter-finals: Thursday.