5 September 2018 – Noko Matlou’s face tightens with relentless determination when she speaks about this year’s Africa Women Cup of Nations tournament, and a FIFA Women’s World Cup dream which has eluded her grasp in all the years she had played for Banyana Banyana.

At 50 Beach Road, Summerstrand Town Lodge hotel in Port Elizabeth where Banyana Banyana are camping leading up to this year’s COSAFA Women’s Championship, Matlou spoke at length of much she would love play on the world stage where her favourite player, USA midfielder Carli Lloyd, has featured in three times before already.

“I want to play in the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Matlou says. “That is the he only thing that is missing in my playing career. It would be great if I could finally realise that dream. Only the best of the best in the world get to play on that platform. Some of us have watched our footballing heroines playing on that stage. Mine is USA midfielder, Carli Lloyd. I want to see myself playing there, too. It would be great to finally see myself sharing that same playing platform with her one day.”

A top three finish in this year’s Women’s AFCON which is set to take place in Ghana from 17 November – 1 December 2018, will see Matlou realising her longed after dream of helping Banyana Banyana qualify for the global event for the first time in the national women’s team history. However, the MaIndies striker understands that realising that dream will require a series of consistent performances which will see her being a consistent inclusion in Banyana coach’s, Desiree Ellis, squad.

And that is why Matlou is more than driven to help Banyana go all the way in defending their COSAFA Women’s Championship title in this year’s edition. The tournament will take place in Port Elizabeth from 12 – 22 September 2018.

“Coach Desiree has been phenomenal in challenging me to continue pushing boundaries (in both her play and personal ambitions),” Matlou says. “I consider myself lucky to have someone like her in my life.

“I was called in as an all-rounder into this squad. The coach understands my strengths and weaknesses and knows that I will give my 100 per cent in whatever position she wants me to play in. And that is what it is all about. It is about giving your best regardless of what position you are asked to play in. It is a pity that I have never played in the goalkeeping position though. I would struggle massively there,” she chuckles.

Matlou added that they are expecting a very tough battle from opposing sides in this year’s COSAFA tournament. However, the Banyana centre-back added that they are more that driven to go all the way to defend their title.

“We will be playing in this year’s COSAFA tournament both as defending champions and hosts as well,” Matlou said. “We all know that it is not going to be easy; however, we are driven to give it our utmost best to defend our title.

“This squad is made up of a combination of experienced and young hungry players,” Matlou adds. “It is a nice mix because the young ones are driven to deliver for the senior national team at all times, while the experienced one are there to guide them on how to do just that. I have had players like Thembi Kgatlana and Chantelle Esau who have come to me for advice on where I think they need to improve regarding their game before. They know that I have played for the national team up in the attacking third many times before and they just saw it fit to ask me (on how she was able to be consistent whenever given the platform to play). This goes to show that there are no egos in this team, and that is why I believe that we will go far.

“There is no stopping us.”