Banyana face battle-scarred Botswana

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Thembi Kgatlana. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix
Thembi Kgatlana. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix


There’s only one thing Banyana Banyana must do when they play neighbours Botswana in their final Women’s Africa Cup of Nations group stage match in Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah stadium in Rabat, Morocco, at 10pm tonight: avoid defeat.

Not that defeat would spoil Banyana’s party, as the team have already qualified for the quarterfinals.

At the same time in the Moroccan capital, Nigeria are expected to beat débutantes Burundi to advance to the last eight as Group C runners-up.

While South Africa will want to march into the knockout stages with three wins from three games, Botswana are capable opponents who have previously pulled the rug out from under Banyana’s feet.

Banyana have not lost to Botswana in 10 previous meetings. However, Botswana brought Banyana’s journey to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to an abrupt end in September 2019.

Botswana held Banyana to a barren goalless draw in the first leg of the third round of qualification in Gaborone.

READ: RECAP | Banyana Banyana secure Afcon quarter-final ticket in victory over Burundi

Banyana failed to score for the second successive match as Botswana dug in their heels in Johannesburg to force another goalless draw. Banyana lost 3-2 after a penalty shootout.

The defeat was like a stab in Banyana’s hearts, as they had been gunning for a third successive Olympic appearance, having qualified for the London Games in 2012 and the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

Nevertheless, Banyana have played Botswana a few times since the 2020 Olympics and achieved good results.

Although they are already through to the last eight in this year’s tournament, coach Desirée Ellis would do well to remind her team of what Botswana are capable of doing.

Banyana, who have six points from their opening two matches, are going to top group C with a win or a draw against Botswana.

The South African team outfoxed titleholders Nigeria 2-1 on Monday and made light work of Burundi with a 3-1 win on Thursday.

The score might have reflected that of a one-sided rugby match, had most of the Banyana shots not been directed straight at the Burundi goalkeeper, plus a little luck.

A defeat to Botswana tonight could see Banyana finish as the third best-placed team in group C and face a hostile crowd against hosts Morocco, who topped group A.

The top two teams across the three pools, as well as the two best third-placed teams, will progress to the quarterfinals.

Hosts Morocco and Senegal qualified for the quarterfinals as first and second from group A.

If Banyana avoid defeat against Botswana, they will top group C and advance to the last eight, along with either defending champions Nigeria or Botswana. Banyana will look to Atlético de Madrid star and US-bound Thembi Kgatlana to find her second gear against Botswana going into the knockout rounds. Kgatlana, the focal point in the Banyana attack, scored her first goal of the tournament against Burundi after failing to find the target against Nigeria.

Last eight

The first quarterfinal will be the winner of group A against the team who finish third from either group B or C. These are likely to be hosts Morocco and Botswana or Nigeria.

The second quarterfinal will pit the winner of group B, Zambia, against the team who finished second in group A, Senegal.

The third one will see the group C winners, expected to be Banyana, take on third-placed finishers from either group A or B, expected to be Burkina Faso or Cameroon. The last quarterfinal clash will be made up of runners-up from group B (Tunisia) and C (Nigeria).

READ: Banyana coach laments not doing more with 28 scoring chances: 'We over-elaborated at times'

Winners of the quarterfinal matches will secure qualification to next year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.  

The two losers of the quarterfinal will have another chance to secure qualification via the intercontinental playoffs.


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