The Banyana Banyana class of 2010’s squad mix of youth and experience, plus improved physical and mental strength, will be key elements when the South Africans take on Nigeria in a Group A fixture at the Sinaba stadium, in Daveyton, near Johannesburg tomorrow (11h00).
Although the match is scheduled for a weekday morning kickoff, a large crowd is expected to make their way to the stadium to support the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana who started their campaign on a winning note in defeating Tanzania 2-1 at the same venue last Sunday.
The host nation go into the match ranked No 3 in Africa and No 57 on the FIFA world rankings compared to their No 1 ranked north African opponents, who occupy 28 spot on the world list, but Banyana Banyana coach Augustine Makalakane will be the first to acknowledge that rankings and other statistics mean little when it comes to a CAF African Women Championship 2010 fixture.
“The spirit in the Banyana Banyana camp is high and the squad of 21 players are pushing hard in training to get a spot in the starting line up, but being on the bench is just as crucial as these substitute players will have key roles to play to lift the team further in the latter half of the match,” said Makalakalane.
“Banyana Banyana hold no fears as far as playing Nigeria is concerned. The match has the potential of being one of the highlights of CAF African Women Championship 2010 and we want to make our South African sports-loving people proud.”
The Banyana Banyana squad were on hand to witness Nigeria’s 5-0 win over Mali at the Sinaba stadium on Monday, and Makalakalane and his coaching staff will have done much strategising to find ways and means to shut down the Nigerian midfield and lethal strike-force.
But the Queens of Diski, as Banyana Banyana are affectionately known, have quality players of their own and the Nigerian rearguard can expect the 90 minutes of match time to feel that much longer as they try to nullify the goal-scoring aspirations of Banyana Banyana’s African Player of the Year, Noko Matlou (35 goals in 41 international matches).
Matlou apart, striker Momphashe Popela has scored in each of her past two outings, and left-sided midfielder Mamello Makhabane (who scored the winning goal from the penalty spot against Tanzania and was named as ‘Player of the Match’) has taken her level of play to a new level on Africa’s premier women’s football stage.
These are just a few of Makalakalane’s shining stars who will be looking to seize the moment and take the Banyana Banyana a step closer to the ultimate dream of making the tournament final and qualifying for their debut at the FIFA women’s World Cup to be held in Germany in June next year.