JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana vice-captain Refiloe Jane reckons that despite wearing the underdogs cap at their maiden World Cup, South Africa are more than capable of reaching the knockout stage.
Banyana (ranked 49th) are in Group B at the global showpiece alongside tournament favourites Germany, Spain and China, who are ranked second, 13th and 16th in the world respectively. As tough as it will be in their group, the mere fact that they have qualified for the World Cup after an almost 13-year wait allows Banyana to dream.
Speaking at the team’s send-off yesterday, Jane believes that if Banyana apply themselves correctly anything is possible.
“Everyone says we’ve got the ability to progress out of the group stage, and we also believe that we’ve got what it takes,” Jane said. “That’s our first target because we know that in football once you make the knockout stage, anything is possible.”
Despite Jane’s confidence that Banyana can make the last-16, it’s a concern that they are winless in eight matches this year. After all, the South Africans can only grow in confidence once they start beating pre-tournament opponents, right?
The team has arrived in France ahead of their maiden @FIFAWWC with just 14 days to go. The dream is now very close to becoming a reality @Banyana_Banyana @SAFA_net @BafanaBafana #forbanyanabanyanacomeshowyourlove #BanyanaBanyana #DareToShine #fifawwc pic.twitter.com/DkCM6UdiCm— Banyana_Banyana (@Banyana_Banyana) May 24, 2019
But that hasn’t been the case so far for coach Desiree Ellis’ troops as they’ve lost five matches, while drawing three.
However, they head to the global showpiece a bit matured considering that they have seven players plying their trade abroad - Jane, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Nothando Vilakazi, Ode Fulutudilu, Leandra Smeda, Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo.
“We’ve got quite a number of players playing overseas, and with them coming with the experience, we’ll be able to help the young players,” Jane said. “The experience will also be invaluable in terms of the tactics and techniques.”
The South Africans flew out of the country to begin their preparations in France yesterday. They’ll play their last friendly against Norway next Sunday.@Mihlalibaleka