The late arrival of Banyana Banyana’s No 1 goalkeeper, Roxanne Barker could pave the way for Andile Dlamini to start in goal for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) opener against Zimbabwe on Saturday.
Dlamini has spent most of her Banyana time in the shadows, firstly behind Thokozile Mndaweni and then Barker. The pair, Mndaweni and Barker, are among the reason Dlamini hasn’t played a single minute in the Olympics even though she was in the squad for both the London and Brazil edition of the Games. But her time as a second choice could have come to an end, especially under a new coach who is letting everyone start on a clean slate.
The Netherlands-based Barker, along with Jermaine Seoposenwe who plays her club football in the United States, will link up with Banyana in Cameroon after the side left for Yaounde yesterday.
That puts interim coach Desiree Ellis, who has been in charge of two friendlies against Egypt and Zimbabwe, in the awkward position of having to find a way to assimilate the duo into the team.
“People need to raise their hands,” Ellis said. “We are governed by the Fifa rules when it comes to Jermaine and Roxanne. The clubs, I won’t say that they are doing us a favour, but they agreed to release them earlier. But they must raise their hands when they arrive. We can’t just drop a player for them. That would kill that player’s confidence. We must give those who played in their absence a chance.”
Ellis continued, “We will see when they (Jermaine and Roxanne) come, what shape they are in. We have to see how they fit in. Do we want to use them from the start, or bring them on as impact players? We have to look at all the scenarios and then pick the best eleven. But we must be careful not to isolate anyone.”
Dlamini raised her hand in the friendly against Zimbabwe last week in Harare. She kept a clean sheet in Banyana’s 3-0 win, a confidence boosting performance given that previous matches against the two nations have been tighter. The Brave Warriors troubled Banyana under former coach Vera Pauw. Dlamini watched from the bench most of those matches, getting to know the neighbours better, which is why she isn’t carried away by that emphatic win.
“They didn’t play all their cards,” Dlamini said. “It’s going to be a different game in Cameroon. This (Afcon) is a tournament and that was a friendly. I don’t think they gave it their all. A few of their players were rested. We mustn’t let that result go to our heads.”
That’s not the only result that Banyana should not carried away about. They have also beaten their other opponents in Group A, hosts Cameroon and Egypt, in friendlies. But those matches will be ‘easier’ compared to their clash with Zimbabwe because of the rivalry between the two nations.
“Zimbabwe are physically strong,” Dlamini said. “When they go into a tackle, they make sure that you feel it. If you win the ball, you leave that scene knowing it wasn’t easy. They are fighters. We have to outdo them in that department.”