Tough Olympic draw for Banyana
25 April 2012
South Africa's national women's football team, Banyana Banyana, were handed a very tough draw for the London Olympic Games on Wednesday. Their pool includes three teams ranked inside the top seven in the world.
At number three in the Fifa rankings, 2011 World Cup winners Japan present a formidable obstacle, while Sweden is ranked fifth and Canada seventh. South Africa is ranked 65th.
"Drawing World Cup champions Japan in our group ... well, it doesn't come much more challenging than that," captain Amanda Dlamini said in a statement on Wednesday. "But we are a highly competitive unit and will give it our all to make all those who have been supporting us, including the football fans in South Africa and across the African continent, proud.
'A dream come true'
"It's a dream come true for Banyana Banyana to be a part of Team SA at the Olympics, and I can assure you that the players will be working harder than ever in training in the hope of being among the 18 athletes who will get the chance to compete in London," Dlamini said.
South Africa face the Swedes first in Coventry on 25 July. That match is followed by another at the same venue two days later, against Canada. On 31 July, Banyana take on Japan in Cardiff.
Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza was in London for the draw on Wednesday and shared his thoughts about it afterwards. "We are humbled to be here as this is a historic day for us as South Africans, and we have been drawn against some high-profile teams," he said.
'Not an easy task'
"It will not be an easy task for us, so we need to step up preparations to ensure that we're ready to compete against these three countries, but as you know the game of football can be very unpredictable, and this all depends on how a team performs on the day.
"We are very optimistic given the fact that, thanks to Sasol and Safa (the South African Football Association), we've been having various training camps since the beginning of the year to ensure that we make our presence felt coming to the Olympics as we look to promote women's football in South Africa."
South Africa will contest Group F at the Olympics. Group E is made up of composite team Great Britain, New Zealand (ranked 24th in the world), Cameroon (52nd) and Brazil (4th), while Group G includes the USA (1st), France (6th), Colombia (28th) and North Korea (8th).
After the group phase of competition, the top two teams from each pool will advance to the last eight, along with the two best third-place teams.
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