JOHANNESBURG – Bambanani Mbane is convinced that Banyana Banyana’s friendly match against World Champions US will be suitable to measure their readiness for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in France from June 7 - July 7.
South Africa, who are in Group B with China, Germany and Spain, have been hard at work in their preparations, opening the year with friendlies against Netherlands and Sweden in the Cyprus Cup, before recently meeting fellow first time World Cup finalists Jamaica. They face world No 1 US on May 12 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara.
“Playing against the US will be a great addition to our preparations. So far, we know where we are but this encounter will determine how ready we are for the World Cup,” Mbane said at Banyana’s camp base at the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus, this week.
“We’ll open our first campaign in the World Cup against Spain, and I think they have a similar style of play as the US. So, this will give us a chance to prove that we are not going to the World Cup to add numbers.”
The 28-year-old played a sterling role in the heart of defence in last year’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations as they qualified for the World Cup.
“It is not my first time playing against the US. But playing against them while we are going to the World Cup is a great deal as that gives me a great sense of motivation,” Mbane said. “My initial dream as a footballer was to play at the World Cup, and now that’s drawing closer - despite not knowing who the coach will select in the final squad.”
Although they might have gained invaluable experience against the Netherlands, Sweden and Jamaica, Ellis’ troops will be disappointed they drew twice and lost once in those matches.
They had a record-breaking attendance for their last game against the Rasta Girls at Moses Mabhida Stadium, but drew the match. Mbane, however, is aware that instilling a winning mentality in the preparations will go a long way towards the main event in France.
“In the match against Jamaica, we made a lot of mistakes,” Mbane admitted. “We created a lot of chances, but we failed to convert them. We need to improve on the conversion of our chances because we know that in the World Cup, it won’t be easy. In our last game, we showed that we can play but we need to improve up front.”@Mihlalibaleka