Banyana seek continental success
16 August 2012
The South African national women's football team, Banyana Banyana, will be aiming to put their recent experience at the London Olympic Games to good use when they take part in the 2012 African Women's Championship (AWC) in Equatorial Guinea from 28 October to 11 November.
Unlike the men's competition at the Olympics, which features under-23 players, the women's competition is open at all ages. That meant that Banyana got to play against three of the world's elite teams in their group matches, facing world number four Sweden, world number seven Canada, and world number three Japan, in that order.
The Canadians gave eventual gold medallists the USA all they could handle in the semi-finals before succumbing 4-3 in extra time, while Japan, the reigning World Cup champions, made it to the final, where they lost 2-1 to the Americans. The Canadians went on to finish third after a 1-0 win over France.
At London 2012, Banyana started off nervously in their first match, losing 4-1 to Sweden after some sloppy defending in the early part of the game, but Portia Modise struck a sensational goal from 45 metres to bring them some consolation to their first ever match at the Olympics.
Canada were 3-0 winners over South Africa in the team's second outing, but it was an improved performance from the South Africans. In their final match, Banyana held Japan to a goalless draw to exit the tournament on a high note.
The AWC tournament, which will be played at the Nkoantoma Stadium in Bata and the Nouveau Stade in Malabo, will present Banyana with an opportunity to show how valuable the Olympic experience was and how much they have grown from it.
They have been drawn in group A alongside hosts Equatorial Guinea, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Group B will consist of reigning champions Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Cote d'Ivoire.
Coach Joseph Mkhonza said he would like to pick up from where the squad left off in London. "We are looking to build a strong squad that will compete in the African spectacle and do well. Our profile has gone up since the Olympics and we want to maintain that momentum," he explained.
"It is important that we constantly work on improving because our goal is to do well in Africa and finish among the top three nations and qualify for the 2015 Women's World Cup." Qualifying for the World Cup would be a first for South Africa.
"In the upcoming camps, we would like to bring in new talent that we identified during the Sasol League National Championship. That way, we can manage to blend youth with experience so that we can sustain the success and have continuity," Mkhonza added.
He said his technical team has been following the rehabilitation process of regulars like Memory Makhanya and Mamello Makhabane with keen interest.
"I am hopeful that they will all recover in time for the AWC. I have been monitoring their progress and I am pleased that Memory and Mamello will be ready to join us when we start our preparations for the continental championships."
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