Head coach of Banyana Banyana Vera Pauw told her players in the change room after the match that she was proud of them despite a 1-0 defeat to the US Senior Women’s National Team in an international friendly match on Saturday, 9 July at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA.

Head coach of Banyana Banyana Vera Pauw told her players in the change room after the match that she was proud of them despite a 1-0 defeat to the US Senior Women’s National Team in an international friendly match on Saturday, 9 July at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA.

With South Africa ranked 52nd, many had expected a hiding from the reigning Olympic and World Champions who also occupy the top spot in the women’s world rakings, but Pauw’s charges did not disappoint despite letting in a 35th minute goal.

Crystal Dunn was the goal scorer.

Both teams were using the match to prepare for the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics Games, and Pauw was impressed with her charges.

“It is the first time in my career that I can say to my team ‘congratulations and I am proud’ despite a defeat. However, we need to realise that at this level the few chances you get you have to go for goal, and we didn’t do so. We have been working on that for a long time, and during pressure times if you don’t have the guts to fail, you will never succeed,” said Pauw.

Team captain Janine van Wyk echoed her sentiments.

“It was the most incredible game, with an interesting atmosphere at the stadium, and the overall performance of the team was incredible. Credit goes to all the players as they really played their part. Even though we came out defeated, I think it was still an amazing result for us against the World Champions. We saw some of their matches where they beat teams by high margins and we thought they would come out and hammer us, but we kept our cool. Overall we did extremely great against the World’s best and we can only improve from here on,” said Van Wyk.

The skipper led from the front against the USA, thwarting any attempt from the much-fancied opponents. She was an inspiration to the entire team, and was easily player of the match.

“I have been saying it’s a dream come true for me, and you only get this opportunity maybe once in-a- lifetime, and I really wanted to make it the best of my career. I really feel that as a captain, a leader and a player that has been in the national team for so many years that I needed to step us for my team and I am really pleased with my performance today. I think it’s the best I have ever had in my career so far. It has given me a lot of confidence going forward because my teammates are looking up to me as well. I am really happy with what I did on the field today and hopefully I can carry on being consistent going into Rio. I believe this result has really given us a lot of confidence, and we hope that when we play against New Zealand before the start of the Games, we can get a good result that will make us ready for Rio,” she said.

Pauw said that a lot of preparation was done before the clash with the USA.

“We can also be proud as staff that the players were ready. We have Elisabeth Migchelsen, who is doing all the scouting. She prepared all the details about this team (USA) and we had to select those that were important for the players, and not overload them, just get key things in our preparation,” added Pauw.

“I must say the biggest task was to get them ready for the atmosphere, during the singing of the national anthem of the USA for example, and playing against those big stars that they admire, but had to be equal with them at the same time. My players had to be on the same level with them otherwise you find yourself 5-0 down in no time. I also think we surprised the USA because the strategy was to press forward and not park the bus. The biggest win for us today is that against the World Champions we were able to push them into their own half. I am excited because you can see the difference between this team now and about a month ago against the Netherlands, we have made immense improvement.”

It was a good day at the office for former Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini when she reached her 100 caps for the national team.

Dlamini came on as a substitute in the 60th minute for Linda Motlhalo.

“It was an exciting match and we really showed we have made some tremendous strides as a team. And we showed we are able to challenge anyone if we set our minds to it, and it was also another opportunity to progress more in our mission to be ready for the Olympics,” said Dlamini.

“As for my 100th appearance I really tried to block everything out of my head before the match because I knew how important it was to first play the match then celebrate afterwards. I should thank all the people who showed appreciation for what I have done for the national team. So it is quite exciting to have finally made 100 caps today.”

Now the hardest part for Pauw and the technical team is to select the final 22 players going to Rio – something that has now become a headache following the good performance against the USA.

“The result and performance has brought in even more hesitation from us selecting the final team, but we have to do it. We need to see the injured players – we had Shiwe Nogwanya with a dislocated elbow, but the doctor said she will be fine and we also had Robyn Moodaly, who is not strong enough yet – but we have about four weeks and she could make a big step. So we need to make the final decision soon, our job is not over yet. It will be will a long discussion because we want to give every player a chance they deserve for all the hard work and sacrifices they have made, so we need to review videos and decide. We will not make this decision lightly,” said the Banyana Banyana mentor.

Banyana Banyana return home on Monday, 11 July 2016.

They are expected to land in South Africa at 16h30 at the OR Tambo International airport.