FOLLOW MY LEAD: SA midfielder Refiloe Jane shows off her skills during training at Athlone Stadium yesterday. Photo: Phando Jikelo/ANA

CAPE TOWN - After winning the Cosafa Cup and being named Caf Women’s Team of the Year, Banyana Banyana are not short on confidence. In fact, the South African national women’s football team’s stock has risen to such a degree that a side as high profile as Sweden has jetted into the Mother City for an international friendly at Cape Town Stadium on Sunday (2pm kickoff).

Sweden are ranked 10th in the world and fifth in Europe.

Entry is free, but tickets still have to be accessed via Computicket or any Shoprite, Checkers, or Checkers Hyper. For Banyana captain Janine van Wyk, this is an occasion to treasure. While accolades are important in tracking and measuring improvement, it also places a football team squarely in the spotlight. They are no longer an unknown entity - instead they are now in the focus of other nations as the team to beat.

Banyana’s recent success has had the requisite effect of elevating the SA national women’s team into international recognition. And it was this particular aspect highlighted by Van Wyk when revealing her thoughts about Sunday’s international friendly. This is the first time Banyana are playing such a high-profile friendly in the Mother City.

“I am really looking forward to the match,” said Van Wyk. “It will be the second time I play against Sweden. They are tough opponents, they are world class, and it is an honour to have them here. It shows that Banyana are a good team, otherwise world-class teams like Sweden wouldn’t come here to prepare. For us, this is part of the preparation for the women’s Africa Cup of Nations, with the ultimate aim of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.

“This is our first game for 2018, preparations have been going well under coach Des (Ellis), the spirit is high, especially after the Cosafa Cup win and being named as the African Women’s Team of the Year.

“We want to put up a good fight against the Swedes on Sunday. As a team, in order to grow you have to play games against such top-class opposition. But the confidence is high. All eyes are on us, everyone wants to play against us, and we want (to) show why we are the best team in Africa.”

For the City of Cape Town, bringing Banyana to the Mother City is a big coup.

“This project has been long overdue,” said the city’s Stuart Diamond. “We have been talking to Safa for a while and we have finally got Banyana to play in Cape Town.

“We welcome (coach) Des Ellis and her team to the Cape - and, as she is a Capetonian, we say to Des, ‘welcome home’. Our commitment in the city is not just to grow football in the Cape, but also to grow women’s football. This is an occasion for Banyana to showcase their skills against a world-class team like Sweden.”

IOL Sport

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