Banyana will look to Thembi Kgatlana to help them overcome the Japanese on Sunday. Photo: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

DURBAN – Banyana Banyana will be out to banish the memories of a pretty poor 2019 when they take on Japan in a friendly international at the Kitakyushu Stadium on Sunday morning (SA time).

South Africa’s senior women’s national team enjoyed a splendid 2018 campaign that saw them finish as runners-up at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Ghana.

That earned them a spot at the Fifa World Cup in France.

Granted, not much was expected of them at the global showpiece given their debutant status, but the hope was that they would at least give a good account of themselves.

Instead, they returned home quickly following defeats in all their three group matches, with Spain having beaten them 3-1 in their opening match, which exposed their lack of experience as they conceded an unnecessary penalty. A 1-0 defeat to China followed before Germany hammered them 4-0.

Their poor World Cup showing aside, the hope was that they would still be good enough to book a place at next year’s Olympics, Banyana having qualified for the last two tournaments of the quadrennial multi-sport extravaganza.

But horror of horrors, coach Desiree Ellis and her team failed to score against neighbours Botswana and eventually lost out in a shootout from the penalty spot at the initial stage of the qualifying campaign.

Banyana had begun the year poorly by failing to win a single match at the Cyprus Cup.

The clash against Japan will not be an easy one, though. For one, it is being played in the Asian outfit’s own backyard.

Also, whereas Banyana were hammered at the World Cup, Japan did make it out of the group stage and were knocked out by the Netherlands in the Last 16.

Also, Japan are former world champions, having won the global title in 2011, and they are currently ranked 10th in the world as well as being Asian champions.

Japan are no pushovers. Banyana will have to work diligently to reign supreme against the Japanese in their own territory.

As has been the case lately, Banyana will look to Thembi Kgatlana to help them overcome the Japanese.

Kgatlana has generally been Banyana’s saviour in recent times.


The Mercury

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