Banyana’s moment of truth

2010-08-01 11:55

After having accused Nigeria of getting a smooth passage to the women’s World Cup, Banyana will have their turn to face the same scenario.

This will hinge on whether they make thorough use of their home advantage, because South Africa will be hosting the African Women’s Championships in October and November.

Nigeria’s Super Falcons have always used their home ground advantage to good ­effect, winning it seven times – thrice at home.

But Banyana have had mixed fortunes when hosting the two previous events.

In 2000 they finished second to Nigeria in a game marred by crowd violence at Vosloorus Stadium, and in 2004 they had their worst event yet when they failed to progress beyond the group stages.

After narrowly losing 2-1 to the hosts of the 2008 African Women’s Championships, Equatorial Guinea, Banyana hope that home-ground advantage will see them win this year’s edition.

Although it was a different story when they were the hosts in 2004, Guinea’s success in front of their supporters two years ago proved that the home-ground advantage does work.

Banyana coach Augustine Makalakalane agrees that this will be the team’s best opportunity to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Germany, but he insists that they will have to do the job on the field.

“We have to keep the momentum of the World Cup going – hence we urge all South Africans to rally behind the team,” said Makalakalane.

He suggested that with today marking the beginning of Women’s Month in South Africa, it would be fitting to have Football Friday extended to all days of the week.

“We want to pull out all the stops and make sure we prepare thoroughly for the tournament by slotting in training camps and playing friendly games against strong countries. We always cry about hostile reception when we play outside the country, but this time we have to go for broke and use our home advantage to good cause.”

He lamented, however, the fact that women’s league would start only in October, and most of his players would stay idle until then.

After crushing Tanzania in a friendly game played in front of a 5 000-strong crowd last weekend, team manager Fran Hilton-Smith was optimistic about their chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.

“What’s a good thing is that we had five different goal-scorers and this is great for the future, rather than relying on a few players,” she said.

She was concerned about the lack of activity, saying it was difficult to arrange friendly games with other African teams as they did not have the money to travel.

Hilton-Smith said it was also expensive to play European countries, but something would be done to keep the team in good shape.

She said the movement of players to overseas teams and the imminent transfer of former African Woman Footballer of the Year Noko Matlou to Iceland would give them an edge over other teams.

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