Both teams had lost their initial games in Group E against Brazil and Sweden respectively so a win here would propel the winning team into third or potentially even second place, depending on the result between Brazil and Sweden later on tonight.
Both teams trade chances in the first half
South Africa's strategy was clearly to bunker and counter when they could while China pressed forward as often as they could to try and score a goal early. Both teams traded half chances throughout the match and the breakthrough only came late into stoppage time of the first half.
South Africa had the first look at goal in the 15th minute when Mamello Makhabane burst through to the byline but her cross was not met by any of her teammates for an easy tap in as it went right across the face of goal. China got forward immediately and Shuang Wang almost opened the scoring but South Africa's goalkeeper Roxanne Barker was up to the task.
Throughout the first half, China would try and slip through the back four of South Africa time and time again, in particular Gu Yasha, but their efforts were met by resilient defending by South Africa's captain Janine Van Wyk or by Barker getting her hands or finger tips onto the ball.
The last few minutes of the half present some genuine excitement
One minute before stoppage time, Van Wyk could have easily given South Africa the lead. A mix up between Dongna Lin and Lina Zhao saw the goalkeeper handle a deliberate backpass. A free-kick was awarded inside the box and Van Wyk stepped up to take it. The South African defender could only hold her head in disbelief as she watched her initial free-kick come off the wall and then her resulting rebound effort get tipped onto the post by Zhao.
One minute later, China got the ball and headed down the pitch again. A lovely through ball found Yasha in behind South Africa's defense and this time, neither Barker nor Van Wyk could get there in time to prevent Yasha from slotting the ball calmly into the far post to give China the lead in stoppage time.
The second half is much of the same
With no changes at the half, the same rhythm and tempo of the first half was carried into the second half by both teams. South Africa would break forward with pace when they could only to fail to connect on the final pass. China would then march right down the pitch and create some good build up play before trying to find one of their strikers with a low, through ball into the box.
The next goal of the match did not come until the 87th minute when Tan Ruyin produced probably the goal of the tournament as of right now. The midfielder picked up the ball at about 30-35 yards out and decided to try and chip Barker who was slightly off her line. Ruyin got enough height on the ball to carry it all the way down the pitch and enough power that, even though Barker got a finger to it, the goalkeeper could not prevent the ball from going in.
Chinas next group game will be on Tuesday, August 9th against Sweden while South Africa will have to face the hosts Brazil on the same day.