The day has almost arrived. Banyana Banyana are on the cusp of qualifying for the Women’s World Cup.
They are unbeaten at the African Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon), having beaten Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, and drawn with Zambia to top Group B.
That earned them a semi-final berth against the weakest opponents in the last-four, Mali, as Cameroon face Nigeria in the other playoff.
Only the top three go through to next year’s World Cup in France, but Banyana don’t want to leave it to the third-place playoff to qualify.
They want to essentially finish the job against Mali on Tuesday night (8.30pm SA time kickoff) in Cape Coast, Ghana.
In the last two editions of the event, they were in similar situations, only to lose the semi-final and third-place playoff.
“We’ve worked so hard up to this day, and tomorrow is do or die. Mali are a tough opponent – we’ve watched their games and know what’s coming for us,” Banyana goalkeeper Kaylin Swart said on Safa’s website on Monday.
“We are ready. I have full belief and faith in my team, and today’s training session helped our mindset to get ready for tomorrow.
“We are 90 minutes away from getting what we worked hard for all year.
“Every day is a day closer to where we want to be, the impossible. Four years ago, we were in this position and it didn’t go our way.
“This year is our time. We have prepared well, and our coaches have full belief in us. We have the support of the nation, and we don’t want to disappoint anyone or ourselves.”
The 1-1 draw with Zambia on Saturday came as a bit of a surprise, especially considering that the South Africans had beaten Nigeria, who thrashed Zambia 4-0.
But Swart believes that perhaps not winning against their southern African neighbours may be just what Banyana needed at this stage of the competition.
“We knew that Nigeria was a big game, and we rose to the occasion. Starting like that, and putting our foot off the pedal a bit… The Zambia game was a wake-up call, but we all know what’s at stake for the next one,” the 24-year-old from Port Elizabeth said.
.@Banyana_Banyana forward Chrestinah @KgatlanaJnr11 🇿🇦leads the scorers chart with 4⃣⚽️goals. @NGSuper_Falcons ’s @AsisatOshoala 🇳🇬& Rachael Kundananji of @FAZFootball 🇿🇲have 3⃣⚽️goals each. #Totalawcon18 pic.twitter.com/CELEf9ezTL— Total Women's Africa Cup of Nations (@CAF_AWCON) November 25, 2018
“We had a bit of rest to re-shift our minds, and our coaches did that to get us in the right mindset. This is the tough part of the tournament, as we don’t want to play for the third-fourth position. Going for the kill tomorrow is what we want to do.
“They know who we are now, and tomorrow will be a different ball-game. I think everyone’s ready, and our mindset is that of a competitive nature.
“Nerves? Yes. Pressure? A lot. We’ve been in this situation multiple times and always came short. To achieve that goal tomorrow would be the greatest achievement.”@ashfakmohamed