The result followed Banyana’s opening game 3-1 loss to Spain, and although there is still a chance of finishing as one of the four best third-placed teams from the six groups, the likelihood of that is not good – with a match against Group B leaders Germany still to come.
China started the game with purpose and South Africa’s goalkeeper Kaylin Swart had her work cut out in keeping out two dangerous crosses from Gu Yasha.
Banyana were struggling to get going, and it was only midway through the first half when they began to find some rhythm to their play.
However, all they had to show for their efforts was a shot from a tight angle by Thembi Kgatlana which flew well wide of the target.
China, meanwhile, were asking far more questions with their attack, and they had opportunities to score as Han Peng and Yasha both sent shots from the edge of the area narrowly over the crossbar.
And it was keeping in line with the run of play that they took the lead in the 39th minute when Zhang Rui’s penetrating ball into the box was superbly turned into the net by Li Ying at full stretch.
Banyana were close to conceding a second goal just three minutes later, when Wang Shanshan’s header struck the crossbar and bounced onto the line, with replays showing it was just a couple of centimetres away from being a goal.
Desiree Ellis’ side came out with more intent after the interval in Paris, but when they did create openings, it was no more than half chances as China’s goal remained largely unthreatened.
And when Kholosa Biyana’s 63rd minute shot flew tamely into the arms of goalkeeper Peng Shimeng, it was Banyana’s first attempt on target in the match.
To their credit, the South Africans showed some real spirit as they continued to look for a way back into the game against their more experienced and higher-ranked opponents.
However, were it not for Swart, who pulled off two outstanding late saves, the margin of defeat could have been worse.
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