JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Andile Dlamini said while everyone was enjoying the festive season and feasting on Christmas treats in December, the team were making sacrifices to make sure they are in peak form for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in June and July.
Dlamini said that part of this regiment saw them train hard and then learn a lot from the two international friendly matches they played against the Netherlands and Sweden in January.
The fixtures were the first of the year for the South African team and were specifically chosen to prepare for the World Cup.
This is the first time Banyana Banyana have qualified for the tournament, and apart from the Netherlands and Sweden, they have lined up other top footballing nations to get ready for the biggest stage in world football.
“It was a great start to our World Cup preparations, which had to do a lot with sacrifices. When our families were enjoying the December break, we continued with our training programmes – hard work by us made it possible for us to start the year the way we did,” said Dlamini.
“I don’t think we could have coped, especially in the second of the two games, had we not put in the hard shift during the festive season. But you could see that all the hard work showed when we played against these top nations.”
Dlamini added that they wasted a couple of opportunities, which could have led to victories for South Africa.
Banyana lost 2-1 to Netherlands and drew 0-0 against Sweden, who are ranked seventh and ninth in the world.
“On the field of play it’s 11 v 11, and it’s not about where you are as a country in terms of rankings – whoever takes their chances will win on the day, that is the lesson we learnt.
"I saw how we played against the Netherlands - it was beautiful football but we did not convert our chances,” added 'Sticks', as she is popularly known.
“The greatest lesson is that either you take your chances or you don’t, and if you end up with the latter then you will end up losing.”
Dlamini played in the second match against Sweden – her first start for Banyana since September in the 2018 Cosafa Women’s Championship in Port Elizabeth.
“It was an amazing feeling being back in goals. I always play for God first, then my country, so I could not believe that I was on the field.
"I also felt that I didn’t have much to do because my teammates were doing a good job. I saw them fight very hard, and it felt amazing being in the squad because playing for your national team is a dream for every player,” said Dlamini.
"What made it even sweeter was that having been in the national team for so long, it was my first time playing in Cape Town and that motivated me even more.”
Next up for Banyana will be Finland, Korea DPR and the Czech Republic at the Cyprus Women’s Cup which will be played from February 27 to March 6.
This will be followed by a trip to California where they will face the USA in May.
The 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup runs from June 7 to July 7.
African News Agency (ANA)