Banyana Banyana brace themselves for game against Nigeria

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Banyana Banyana are gearing themselves for a tough encounter against the Super Falcons of Nigeria in the fourth and final round of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games qualifiers.

South Africa beat Tanzania 1-nil in Mpumalanga last night to advance to the last round of qualifiers 4-nil on aggregate. Banyana Banyana’s last hurdle will be against bitter rivals Nigeria in a two-legged affair in April.

In last night’s encounter coach Desiree Ellis made four changes to the team that started in the first leg in Dar es Salaam last Friday.

Four regular players Lebohang Ramalepe, Hilda Magaia, Kholosa Biyana, and veteran Noko Matlou started on the bench.

Both teams failed to find the back of the net in the first half which ended goalless. Ellis made two substitutions in the beginning of the second half and that changed the complexion of the game in favour of the hosts.

Brilliant free kick

Star player Thembi Kgatlana scored the only goal of the match after a brilliant free kick. Ellis says they deserve to advance to the next round after scoring three goals in the away leg.

“You can’t go to the Olympics if you don’t get beyond this round, but as you say, we did a lot of work away and today we just wanted to put a good performance for the crowd because they came in their numbers to support us which was really fantastic. Not having played in Mbombela in a very long time it was great to see the fans coming out.

Happy with the result but you know still a bit of rustiness here and there, you know created a lot of opportunities, maybe making better decisions in the final third, but we were never really threatened.”

Beyond the Olympics

Ellis is already looking beyond the Olympics by gradually bringing in talented youngsters in the team. Lesego Nkoana replaced the injured Kholosa Biyana who also came in as a substitute.

“Lesego coming in as cover for midfield, we brought her in because we know the quality she has and I’m sure she was very nervous but helped us in moments to get forward played, some lovely through balls you know. But the free kick we only practiced it last night and it didn’t come off and it was really fantastic you know, coach Cameroon putting in that free kick and us scoring from that free kick was really great because we really had a couple of chances, but like I said really proud of the team.”

But Banyana Banyana will have to be at their best against the number one ranked Nigeria in the next round, according to forward Jermaine Seoposenwe.

“Next game, a known opponent, a tough opponent as part of the Olympics. It’s going to be tough; I think with the players returning as well the likes of Bambanani, Refiloe our captain I think it’s going to boost our squad and make us stronger. But we’ve had great results against Nigeria the past couple games, but we can’t lay on our laurels, we have work hard, we have to put in the work and make sure that we get the result that we looking for.”

Big milestone

The game against Tanzania marked a big milestone for Seoposenwe. She became only the 10th Banyana Banyana player to collect 100 caps in the senior women’s national team.

“It’s a privilege, it’s an honour to be part of the national team for such a long time. I think not a lot of people get to join the club but I’m privileged and honoured to be here, thank you to my teammates to the staff, to SAFA and everyone that’s been involved in my journey up until this point. It’s been a long one, 14 years but I have achieved that and I’m really grateful to everyone that has been part of my journey.”

Nigeria booked their place in the final round after beating Cameroon 1-nil Abuja on Monday.

The first leg against Nigeria will be played away on 1 April, with the second leg to be played in South Africa on the 9th.