Tough route to Olympics for African teams

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The South African Football Association and Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis all recognise how difficult it is for African teams to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Sixteen teams will play in the final elimination round to determine the two nations that will represent the African continent in Paris later this year. Banyana Banyana will have to overcome Tanzania in a two-legged affair to advance to the fourth and final round of qualification.

Banyana Banyana’s battle to qualify for the Paris Olympics does not end after the two-legged clash with Tanzania. The winner of the tie will face the winners of the tie between Nigeria and Cameroon. In the other stream, Ghana will battle it out with Zambia, while there’s also a North African clash between Tunisia and Morocco.

The next round of matches will be played in April. President of the South African Football Association, Danny Jordaan, says it’s very difficult for African teams to qualify for the Olympic Games.

“We are focussing on the Olympics, a very important competition and also very tough through the African continent. There are sixteen teams and only two, so I want to wish Desiree Ellis the very best on the journey for qualification. It is a difficult match, it is a long journey that we have travelled to get to the final stages and these two matches will be absolutely crucial,”

Ellis says they cannot underestimate Tanzania. The Twiga Stars shocked a stubborn Botswana to progress to this round of the competition.

“They beat Togo who was at the last Wafcon, they also beat Botswana recently to qualify for this stage. We all know how good Botswana is and what happened back then, so we are not taking anything for granted. We have worked a lot on some of the things this week, obviously waiting for the international based players to meet us on the other side and then continue with our preparations. But the analysts have done really well in getting as much information as they can and setting up analysis on the opponent and as the technical team, we’ve all studied that and we know what to expect.”

Ellis says South Africa wants a positive result in the away leg in Dar es Salaam on Friday afternoon.

“Whenever we play, we always go out for results that’s the most important thing. We don’t leave nothing to chance but we also have to look at their qualities and what they have to offer. We will make sure that we get the result that we want to make the second leg easier and that’s important. We do know that the Olympics is not on goal difference, so we just have to make sure that we get the job done but we going to make sure that we get a good result in Tanzania to take pressure off us at home.”

According to Ellis, Banyana Banyana also want to improve on their away record by winning the first leg.

“The last couple of games we’ve played away, we drew games but it’s games we could have won. We should have won with the chances that we had and knowing also that we come off pre-season. I think we are in a similar situation in 2022 when we played Algeria who were in season the same like Tanzania are now and we came in early to prepare and I think this week has gone extremely well which will help us in that. But like I said we go out there to do well in every game. We don’t leave it to chance and wait for the second leg.”

The return leg will be staged at the Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga next Tuesday evening.

Video: Tough road to Olympics for African teams, Banyana taking nothing for granted: Desiree Ellis