PARIS – South Africa are close to genuinely competing with the very best women’s football has to offer despite losing both games so far at their debut World Cup, according to captain Janine van Wyk.
Banyana Banyana lost 1-0 to former runners-up China in Paris on Thursday, leaving them still without a point in Group B.
They had been beaten 3-1 by Spain in their opening game, having led for long spells courtesy of a Thembi Kgatlana goal, meaning they have nothing to show for their efforts so far since coming to France.
“This World Cup has come at the right time for us. We have worked extremely hard with some great players and talents coming through the ranks in South Africa,” Van Wyk said.
“If we can get more clinical in front of goal – work on that more – then I think we can get better results from this, but we are not far off.”
Desiree Ellis’ team are ranked 49th in the world, the lowest of any team at the tournament with the exception of Jamaica.
Van Wyk believes the USA’s record 13-0 demolition of 34th-ranked Thailand should put Banyana Banyana’s performances so far into some perspective.
“You look at the Chinese team that is ranked 16th, Spain are ranked 13th, and you would have expected a USA-Thailand game, so I don’t think we are far off in terms of matching.
“I think for the next World Cup, hopefully we will qualify and get some wins in the bag.”
A veteran member of the squad at the age of 32, Van Wyk added: “Of course you are disappointed with the results, because any team here wants to win and progress to the next round and possibly lift the trophy, but for us, we need to be a little bit realistic about things.”
Disappointed in the result YES, but extremely proud of the way we showed true character by fighting every single second on the field for each other. It's clear that we are closing gaps when it comes to competing against World Class teams with Pro leagues. Thanks for the Support🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/YFVuUMesQh— Janine Van Wyk (@Janinevanwyk5) June 14, 2019
South Africa now face former winners Germany in a daunting encounter in Montpellier on Monday.
With four third-placed teams from the six groups progressing to the last-16, they could theoretically still advance.
“We need to plan as if we are progressing to the next round; we can’t be sitting back and saying it is over for us,” insisted Van Wyk.
Goalkeeper Kaylin Swart struck a similar tone after coming into the side in place of the injured Andile Dlamini.
%%%twitter https://twitter.com/FIFAWWC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FIFAWWCat Stade de la Mosson #DareToShine #fifawwc #BanyanaBanyana #LeMomentDeBriller @SAFA_net @bafana_bafana #RSA @Banyana_Banyana pic.twitter.com/j0rVFhVh97
— Banyana_Banyana (@Banyana_Banyana)
“We have done what we could. It wasn’t enough, but we keep going. We are not going to drop our heads now because the world is looking at us,” she said.
“We didn’t come here to make up the numbers, so hopefully everyone shakes this off.”