The football gods tend to have a funny way of doing things. How else would you explain Bafana Bafana playing Nigeria in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at FNB Stadium on Saturday and Banyana Banyana opening their Africa Women Cup of Nations campaign against the Nigerian Super Falcons on Sunday?
An upbeat Desiree Ellis, a former Banyana skipper and now the team’s coach, said on Friday before the 21-member squad left:
She said the players in the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWC) squad deserve credit.
A surprise omission from the squad was Rhoda Mulaudzi, who plays for Canberra United in Australia’s premier women’s competition, the W-League.
Ellis named her squad this week and said most of her players were versatile, which would help her team do well.
“We have scenarios in which we play different formations. We can play four different formations and change within the game as well.
“When we played against Chile [last month], we went down to 10 players and we changed formations, which made it hard to break us down – and we scored,” she said.
Goalkeepers: Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns), Kaylin Swart (Menlo College/awaiting international transfer) and Roxanne Barker (University of the Western Cape)
Defenders: Lebogang Ramalepe (Ma-Indies FC), Nothando Vilakazi (Palace Super Falcons FC), Janine van Wyk (Houston Dash/awaiting international transfer), Noko Matlou (Ma-Indies FC), Bambanani Mbane (Bloemfontein Celtic), Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns) and Koketso Tlailane (TUT)
Midfielders: Kgaelebane Mohlakoana (Bloemfontein Celtic), Mamello Makhabane (JVW FC), Leandra Smeda (Gintra Universitetas), Nompumelelo Nyandeni (JVW FC), Linda Motlhalo (Houston Dash), Busisiwe Ndimeni (TUT) and Refiloe Jane (Canberra United)
Strikers: Jermaine Seoposenwe (JVW FC), Thembi Kgatlana (Houston Dash), Melinda Kgadiete (Bloemfontein Celtic) and Amanda Mthandi (University of Johannesburg)
Standby players: Hildah Magaia (TUT), Kholosa Biyana (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Rachel Sebati (TUT) and Thato Letsoso (University of Johannesburg)
South Africa played back-to-back friendlies against the South Americans. They lost the first match 2-1 and drew 2-all in the second.
Ellis’ team will represent South Africa at the event, which starts on Sunday and ends on December 1 in Ghana.
The squad includes two uncapped players – Amanda Mthandi from the University of Johannesburg and Tiisetso Makhubela of Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies’ Football Club.
Veteran Noko Matlou, who has participated in six AWCs, said the mixture of experienced and younger players was good for the team.
“The experience that we bring as older players is valuable because we can guide the youngsters.”
The 2008 African woman footballer of the year said that, when the younger players settle down, they become a formidable group. She said Banyana had improved in
the competition over the years.
“The year in which we missed out on qualification, 2014, proved to be the turning point. And in 2016, when we were supposed to finish third, we lost the play-off match and only finished fourth, missing the qualification for the Women’s World Cup.
The premier African women’s football showpiece will serve as a qualifier for next year’s Women World Cup qualifier, with the top three nations in Ghana going on to represent the continent at the global finals in France next June.
The national team has been grouped with 10-time champions Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia in Group B.
Banyana will look for a win against the Super Falcons on November 18, then take on Kenya three days later.
For the final match of Group B, they will entertain Zambia in Accra on November 24.
The team left on Friday and will play a friendly game against Ghana in Accra today.
November 18: Nigeria vs South Africa 3.30pm (5.30pm SA time), Cape Coast
November 21: Equatorial Guinea vs South Africa 6.30pm (8.30pm), Cape Coast
November 24: South Africa vs Zambia 4pm (6pm), Accra Stadium