She became the first South African female to score in the Uefa Women’s Champions League, and now her sights are set on the World Cup.
Banyana Banyana midfielder Leandra Smeda is back in the national set-up after missing out on the Cosafa Women’s Championship, and she is determined to help South Africa reach their first ever World Cup finals in France next year.
The 29-year-old Smeda, who hails from Velddrif in the Western Cape, played her most recent club football in Lithuania for FC Gintra.
She had to undertake a marathon travel journey from the Baltic country to Chile, where Banyana arrived this week for two internationals against the South American outfit.
The two matches against Chile, who have already qualified for the World Cup, take place on Saturday in Vina del Mar (11.30pm SA time), and next Tuesday in Santiago (3am SA time).
Banyana are using the two-game trip as preparation for the African Women’s Championship, which will be played in Ghana next month.
The top three teams from that event will qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which will be played in June and July next year.
“I think it’s going to be difficult games as we haven’t played Chile before. It’s good preparation going into Afcon after winning the Cosafa Cup, and now playing South American opposition. The team spirit is on a high and we would like to rectify our mistakes and score more goals,” Smeda said in an interview with the Safa website.
“We will be able to see where we are and how we measure up to Chile, going into the Afcon. If we can get good results, then we know we are on the right track for Afcon.
“I feel we have a good chance of qualifying for the World Cup, as we have gelled well as a team with the experienced players and the young ones.
“To qualify for the World Cup will be great, as for a lot of us, it is probably the last chance to make it. We’ve come so close to getting the third spot (at Afcon) in the past.
“It would open so many doors for the young players coming through, and if we do well at the World Cup, more overseas teams will be interested in South African players.”
Banyana Banyana Squad
Goalkeepers: Kaylin Swart, Roxanne Barker, Andile Dlamini.
Defenders: Lebogang Ramalepe, Nothando Vilakazi, Janine van Wyk, Bambanani Mbane, Regina Mogolola, Noko Matlou, Koketso Tlailane.
Midfielders: Kgaelebane Mohlakoana, Kholosa Biyana, Refiloe Jane, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Linda Motlhalo, Leandra Smeda, Rachel Sebati.
Strikers: Jermaine Seoposenwe, Khanya Xesi, Melinda Kgadiete, Thembi Kgatlana, Ode Fulutudilu.@ashfakmohamed