Thembi Kgatlana scored the equaliser for Banyana Banyana against Finland on Wednesday. Photo: @Banyana_Banyana via Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Thembi Kgatlana hopes to begin her second half-century with Banyana Banyana on a high note when they face Finland in the ninth place play-off at the Cyprus Women’s Cup today (11am).

The Banyana stalwart endured a 50th cap to forget with her team as they squandered a lead against the Czech Republic to lose 2-1 loss after regulation time. That inflicted more misery on an already disappointing tournament for South Africa who previously drew and lost against Finland and North Korea.

“I have a lot of mixed emotions. I think it was going to be special if we won against the Czechs, but it’s still special but with a bit of disappointment,” Kgatlana said after getting her 50th cap.

“I am now halfway to a 100, but I am hoping for good memories.”

The ongoing CWC was meant to strengthen Banyana’s preparation for their maiden Fifa Women’s World Cup in France from June 7 to July 7. Kgatlana believes they have to gel as a team before they can think ahead.

The South Africans are in group B for the global showpiece alongside China, Spain and Germany.

The winning mentality might be yet to come but their CWC group matches were important eye openers for what to expect at the World Cup.

The Koreans showed the South Africans what to expect from their continental compatriots China, while the Czechs and Finns, who hail from Europe, were bearers of what the Germans and the Spaniards would likely present.

“We are one step ahead, we are moving forward,” Kgatlana said.

“As a team we go through challenges, and at the time, the coaches were trying to see how everyone would cope going into the World Cup as they are changing formations.

“Whatever the result, it’s fine. People have to understand that we are not losing or drawing because we want, but it’s for the betterment of the team.”

Should Banyana win today, it would be a morale booster for Kgatlana and company whose next encounter will be on May 12 against the No 1 ranked United States in what will be their final preparation match before they fly to France.

Before then “Pikinini” and Linda Motlhalo would have met their new employers, Beijing BG Phoenix FC in China. The duo won’t be the only players on the move, as Leandra Smeda will join her new team, Vittsjo Gymnastik och Idrottsklubb, in Sweden. Kgatlana is convinced that more overseas-based players bring stability to the team.

“There’s a lot of impact in having foreign players,” Kgatlana said. “With the five international players that we were playing with in the Awcon, you could see the difference in the playing style.

“We never lost any game because the more players that we get overseas, the better we are as a team.” 

@Mihlalibaleka


The Star

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