Playing at home is a must-win affair for Banyana
JOHANNESBURG – Having kept a clean sheet in the first leg of their Olympic qualifier against Botswana, Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Andile Dlamini believes her team can pull off a win in the second leg at Orlando Stadium tonight.
The two teams played to a goalless draw in the first leg, but Banyana and the Zebras will continue with their rivalry, having avoided each other at the recent Cosafa Championships.
The South Africans subsequently won the tournament, winning all five matches. However, the Zebras excused themselves from taking part in the southern African competition as they decided to train in Slovakia.
In the first leg of the qualifier on Friday, the Batswana didn’t show any potency from their preparations, as they barely troubled Dlamini.
“Everyone is positive because we are playing at home,” Dlamini said. “We are just excited and want to see people support Banyana Banyana. We are happy that we are playing at Orlando Stadium, and the fact that we are playing a qualifier, we know that we have to win at all costs. We’ve got to do our bit and let God do the rest.”
It was, however, a clean sheet that meant a great deal to Dlamini, as the Banyana shot-stopper celebrated her 27th birthday yesterday.
Dlamini’s current aspiration is seeing the women’s senior national team through to the next round of the qualifiers for the Tokyo Games.
But they’ll have to be clinical upfront, if that is to be a possibility.
“It was a tough game, I don’t want to lie,” Dlamini said. “They also had chances but it wasn’t their day, but both teams worked really hard. You could see that they were watching videos of us play, but we also had chances that we could have converted. We also had chances, but we didn’t take them.”
Banyana will be chasing a third successive Olympic appearance, and they received a huge morale booster with the National Women’s Soccer League that started two weeks ago.
“There’s a national league that’s been created for us. If we want things to be positive and progress... sponsorships to come on board, our national team must do well. In that way, if we do well, we’re creating opportunities for young girls as well,” Dlamini said.
The South Africans may have made the last two Olympics in London and Rio respectively, however, this may be their most gruelling qualifying programme ever. Caf has 1.5 spots at the Olympics, meaning the winners of the qualifying tournament will win a berth for the Games, while the runners-up will meet Chile in a playoff.@Mihlalibaleka