5 August 2023 – Banyana Banyana forward Jermaine Seoposenwe believes that the crunch match against the Netherlands at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday (6 August 2023) will need the team’s complete focus as they attempt to make it past the Round of 16 at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Coach Desiree Ellis’ charges have already marched into the history books after becoming the first ever South African national team, men and women, to make it out of the group stages of a FIFA tournament. The Sasol-sponsored South African senior women’s team achieved the feat after they beat Italy 3-2 on Wednesday afternoon to set up the second round clash against the Netherlands in the tournament currently being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Kickoff is at 4h00am CAT.
“I think we are definitely a lot more focused now because the situation is win or go home. (We will need) complete focus going into this match and trying to do our best to see if we get a good result,” said Seoposenwe. After reaching the second round, the African champions received well wishes from around the globe, including from President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa, CAF President Patrice Motsepe, COSAFA President Artur de Almeida e Silva and Premier Soccer League chairman Dr Irvin Khoza, among many others.
Addressing the criticism the team received after their 2-2 draw against Argentina, Seoposenwe said it did not affect the unity of the team and they will continue to fight for each other.
“As professionals, you have to take the criticism just as well. At the end of the day there are a lot of things that people say, but I think as a team we understand what we are capable of, who we are and what we have achieved thus far . So if you allow all the external factors to come and create division within the team, that division will show on the pitch.
“So many things have been said about so many players and the coach, and you still just see unity on the pitch, we fight for each other and we continue to play for each other,” added Seoposenwe.
Coach Ellis also stated the difference in preparing for the group stages as compared to preparing for the knockout stages.
“I think the turnaround time and the time in between is short, so you are also trying to manage the freshness as well trying to get ready for the match. That’s the only difference I think. We travelled and we had only two sessions and the game is the next day,” said the coach.
The Netherlands are ranked 9th in the lasted FIFA rankings with South Africa at 54. On paper the Dutch nation has the upper hand in the head-to-head stats, winning the last three fixtures against Banyana Banyana – 2-0 in a friendly match in 2016, 2-1 in a friendly match in 2019 and a 5-1 victory in 2022 just before Ellis’ side went to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.
During the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup group stages the Netherlands finished their group undefeated with 2 wins (1-0 against Portugal and 7-0 win against Vietnam) and a draw (1-1 against the USA). South Africa’s showing in their group included a loss (2-1 against Sweden), a draw (2-2 against Argentina) and a win (3-2 against Italy).
However, past results will not play a role in a tournament that is a different ball game with both teams coming into the showdown highly motivated. Banyana Banyana’s main sponsor Sasol continues to believe in the team and Senior Manager: Group Brand and Sponsorships Nozipho Mbatha sent affirming words to the side.
“The performance of Banyana Banyana during the group stages of this year’s World Cup was beyond exceptional and deservedly earned a place in the World Cup history books. Making it to the Round of 16 speaks volumes on the determination and drive for greatness of the team to change the narrative of South African women’s football. This display of character, tenacity and bravery is how the team continues to live the impossible, on and off the field. As Sasol, we stand united together with 60 million South Africans to wish the team only the best of luck for tomorrow’s match against Netherlands,” said Mbatha.