Banyana have it all to do in Tshwane second leg

BANYANA striker Jermaine Seoposenwe on the ball against Nigeria in the Paris Olympics qualifier on Friday in Abuja. | @SasolLeague X

BANYANA striker Jermaine Seoposenwe on the ball against Nigeria in the Paris Olympics qualifier on Friday in Abuja. | @SasolLeague X

Published Apr 5, 2024





Ajibade 40’ penalty

BANYANA Banyana must be at their best in the final Olympic Games qualifier second leg in Pretoria on Tuesday after losing to Nigeria in Abuja in the first.

Banyana arrived in Abuja last Saturday, courtesy of Safa and sponsors Sasol, to prepare and adapt to the scorching Nigerian heat.

But they had a somewhat poor first half, with Nigeria, who only had three training sessions to prepare for the match due to the late arrival of 20 overseas-based players, dominating.

Not all is lost for Banyana, though, as they have ample reason to believe they can turn the tide at Loftus Versfeld and book a ticket to the Paris Games later this year.

Banyana are eager to qualify for the Olympics as that would tick off the last item on their bucket list after winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and qualifying for back-to-back World Cups.

The last two achievements came under the tutelage of Desiree Ellis, who was the assistant coach when Banyana last qualified for the Olympics eight years ago.

With this the mother of all rivalries on the continent, Banyana and Nigeria knew that doing well at MKO Abiola Stadium would be a huge morale booster going to Pretoria.

However, it was the Super Falcons who made their home advantage count after taking the lead, which proved to be the winner, late in the first half.

Five minutes before the break, Noko Matlou conceded a penalty after referee Mehat Ghada judged that she brought down a charging Rasheedat Ajibade inside the box.

The Falcons skipper dusted herself off to take the resultant penalty and slotting past Kaylin Swart to give the hosts the breakthrough.

That was a deserved lead for Nigeria, who dominated the better part of the first half, with Ajibade and Grace Kanu a thorn in the flesh for Banyana’s defence.

Banyana were expected to perform better than they did in the first half, coach Ellis fielding a relatively strong team.

The starting line-up included returning captain Refiloe Jane, who last played for the team during the Fifa World Cup in Australasia due to an injury.

Jane and Linda Motlhalo found the going tough in midfield, though, as their supply to front runners Thembi Kgatlana and Jermaine Seoposenwe was cut short.

With Banyana hardly threatening Cynthia Nnadozie’s goal in the first half, Banyana had to throw the kitchen sink at Nigeria in search of an equaliser.

But that didn’t quite go according to plan. Instead, it was the Super Falcons who nearly soared into the lead early in the first stanza with two quick chances.

Kanu missed when it looked easier to score after a one-on-one duel with Swart, who thereafter made another daring save.

Nigeria launched a defence-splitting pass which found an onrushing Veronica Ihezou, who did well to pick up her spot before Swart stuck out her leg to make the save.

After surviving those two scares, Banyana started to get their foot on the ball, with Seoposenwe testing the waters with an effort that was saved by Nnadozie.

Although finally coming out of their shell, Banyana’s Achilles’ heel was in the heart of their defence, where Matlou and Bongeka Gamede operated.

With the second leg a ‘do or die’ affair, coach Ellis will probably have to consider bringing back a tried and tested partnership such as that of Matlou and Bambanani Mbane.