Amanda Mthandi, left, and Banyana teammate Mamello Makhabane during a training session. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix
After getting off the mark in her maiden Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) tournament, Banyana Banyana striker Amanda Mthandi is adamant that it will be naïve of them to underestimate tonight’s opponents Zambia in the last match of the group stage (6pm kick-off).

Following their wins against Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, Mthandi and company will require at least a draw against neighbours Shepolopolo at Accra Stadium in Ghana to advance to the last four of the tournament.

Banyana are aiming for a top three finish to qualify for the Fifa Women’s World Cup.

“We shouldn’t underestimate Zambia because it can be anyone’s day,” Mthandi said.

“Sometimes football will humble you while you have everything. It won’t be an easy match but we’ll definitely give them a run for their money. And, if I get an opportunity, I’ll try to score again.”

Despite her struggles of having to play the game with boys at a younger age at home in Soweto, Mthandi persevered until she reached her goal of playing in the continental showpiece.

That dream received a huge boost after she enrolled at University of Johannesburg, where she impressed enough on trial and joined the Varsity Football team.

Following her impressive performances for UJ, coach Desiree Ellis didn’t hesitate to name her as one of the debutants for the African showpiece.

“I can’t explain the feeling because it’s the first biggest tournament that I’ve been to,” Mthandi said of her tenure in Ghana so far.

“I’ve played five games in the regional tournament (Cosafa) and also the Varsity Cup, but there’s nothing that comes closer to this. The atmosphere here is different compared to the Varsity Cup.”

With Banyana in the driving seat against the Guineans, Ellis gave Mthandi a run in the late stage of the second half.

The third year Transport Administration student at UJ took the opportunity with both hands and scored South Africa’s sixth goal after being teed up by Linda Motlhalo.

Although it took team work to get that goal, Mthandi credits her loved ones for the continued support.

“The goal that I scored is for my friends and family because they always encourage me to do well and keep pushing even when it’s hard,” she explained.

“Sometimes, in the team you’d find out that the coach puts too much trust in a player and when they don’t perform, they shout at them.

"So I’d really like to dedicate that goal to everyone that has pushed me every time.”

Meanwhile, the 10-time African champions, the Super Falcons, will have to bag all three points in the second match of Group B against Equatorial Guinea at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium, to seal their semi-finals spot.

Both matches will kick off simultaneously.

On permutations, should Banyana beat Zambia, the Nigerians will only need a draw against the Guineans to advance.

@MihlaliBaleka 


Saturday Star

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