To avoid another World Cup whitewash Banyana Banyana need to raise their playing levels

Banyana Banyana need to work hard to improve the way their play as the World Cup looms. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana need to work hard to improve the way their play as the World Cup looms. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Published Apr 12, 2023


Cape Town - With 100 days to go to the start FIFA Women’s World Cup, Banyana Banyana desperately needs an injection to raise playing levels ahead of their opening match in New Zealand at the end of July.

After the team's average performance in an international friendly against Serbia on Monday, the team urgently needs help to raise its playing levels over the coming weeks. Serbia ran out 3-2 winners after taking a 3-0 lead after 22 minutes.

The limited statistics that were available of the match showed Serbia overwhelmed Banyana Banyana and the opening 20 minutes were played almost entirely in the South Africans' half.

The stats showed that in the second half, there were hardly any final third entries by either team, and Banyana managed to score a goal in the dying minutes of the match.

Monday's friendly is all part of the team's World Cup preparations which started in earnest last year with international friendlies against the Netherlands (5-1), Brazil (3-0 and 6-0) and Australia (4-1).

A few weeks ago, the team also participated in the Turkish Cup against Uzbekistan (won 3-0) and Slovenia (1-1). However, not too much can be read into these results because of the on-off nature of the event, and Banyana Banyana was not at full strength.

The matches against 8th world-ranked Netherlands, 9-Brazil and 10-Australia saw Banyana Banyana concede 18 goals and managed to score only two. This should have served as a wake-up call because Banyana Banyana will be playing against countries of similar strength at the World Cup in Group G.

All the Group G matches will be played In New Zealand. Banyana Banyana's group opponents will be Sweden (3), Argentina (28) and Italy (16). These three matches will be played in the space of 10 days.

After Monday's match, coach Desiree Ellis shared her thoughts on the team's performance and her observations were the same as those which followed the matches against Brazil and Australia.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has done well to recruit some of the world's best women's teams (the Netherlands, Brazil and Australia are all top 10 world-ranked teams) for international friendlies but the team's technical staff also needs a push so that the team can make a significant step up in its playing levels.

If there is no significant help for the coaches, the team will fare no better than the 2019 team in France where they suffered three defeats in the group matches against Spain (3-1), China (1-0) and Germany (4-0).

This time, however, the team is significantly stronger man-for-man than the 2019 squad. This is because many more squad players are playing abroad and will bring loads of international experience to the squad.

This experience made a difference at the last Women's Africa Cup of Nations which Banyana Banyana won after defeating hosts Morocco in the final.

Prior to the Serbia clash, Banyana Banyana captain Refiloe Jane helped her side US Sassuolo to a 2-0 win over Pomigliano in the Serie A Femminile. She was named 'Player of the Match' for her dominant role.

The Span-based Noko Matlou plays for SD Eibar in the Segunda División, the second tier of Spanish football. She was injured and did not play against Serbia.

Other SA players plying their trade abroad include Linda Motlhalo (Glasgow City), Jermaine Seoposenwe (FC Juarez Femenil), Hildah Magaia (Sejong Sportstoto) and Noxolo Cesane (Tigres Femenil).

All these players have much to offer the national team. It is just a matter of capitalising on these talents otherwise and another 3-0 group whitewash is on the cards.