Banyana Banyana are going to get some good practice ahead of the World Cup with their upcoming friendlies. Photo:
“Be wary, Group B opposition, we are not in the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup to merely make up the numbers.”

That is the non-verbal warning Banyana Banyana have sent out to their confirmed group stage counterparts China, Spain and Germany at the global showpiece in France starting on June 7.

South Africa have set themselves up with two international friendlies against highly ranked nations  the Netherlands on Saturday and then Sweden, both at Cape Town Stadium.

Banyana qualified for their first World Cup after reaching the final of the recent Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) in Ghana, where they lost to Nigeria.

On the notion that a qualifying tournament and an actual top-level international competition are two different propositions, Banyana have arranged these preliminary tests against two of the world’s best in the Mother City.

FINESSE LESSONS FROM THE EUROPEAN LIONESSES

In an encounter that will serve as the inaugural Winnie-Madikizela Mandela Challenge, the Netherlands will likely show off their newfound winning mentality to the South Africans.

Ranked seventh in the world and fourth in Europe, the Dutch are currently rewriting their own history in world football.

However, they have had their own hardships and only made their maiden appearance in the World Cup four years ago - in the 2015 tournament in Canada.

Furthermore, the “Oranjeleeuwinnen” (Orange Lionesses) didn’t have a first appearance to remember in that global showpiece as they exited the competition in the group stage. But they didn’t drop their guard as they went on to dominate Europe by claiming the Uefa Women’s Championship on home soil two years ago.

Before that, they had only made two appearances in the continental competition, which included their first appearance in 2009 when they went on to reach the semi-finals.

Thembi Kgatlana, left, and Banyana captain Janine van Wyk during a training session at Ikamva on Friday ahead of their friendlies in the Mother City. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

On the other hand, Banyana have had their fair share in continental football appearances (13), but the mere fact that it took them more than two decades to qualify for a maiden World Cup probably puts them on par with the Lionesses.

WORLD CUP TIPS FROM OLD FRIENDS

Ninth in the world rankings and fifth in Europe, the Swedes make a return to the Mother City just 12 months after their first visit.

A year ago they were in the country to serve their initial purpose, which was to prepare Banyana for their Cosafa Cup title defence and qualification for their first World Cup. Kudos to them as Banyana achieved those feats.

Their return, however, serves a greater purpose - they are back to equip Banyana on how to make their name in the global showpiece in France. Sweden are, after all, well-qualified to do so as they have participated in six Olympic football tournaments, seven World Cups and nine European Women’s Championships.

Furthermore, the “Blågult” (The Blue and Yellow) have two bronze medals and a silver from their global showpiece appearances.

In their last two meetings with Banyana, they had a clean sweep as they beat them at the Rio Olympics three years ago, followed by a 3-0 scoreline in that friendly last January.

But they are aware that they now face a different South African squad which includes African Women’s Coach of the Year Desiree Ellis and Player of the Year Thembi Kgatlana.

@MihlaliBaleka


Sunday Independent

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