Banyana on the brink | TeamSA - TeamSA

Banyana on the brink

Banyana Banyana are on the brink of qualifying for the Olympic Games for the first time. The national women’s soccer side will take on Ethiopia in the first leg of the 2012 London Olympic Games qualifiers that will be played at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

Kick-off is at 3pm and both countries are playing in the final round of the qualifiers ÔÇô and the overall winner will book a place to London in 2012.

With next month’s (11 September 2011) return leg set to be a fiercely difficult encounter, South Africa will be looking to establish a stranglehold on the tie in this first leg. The team has called for fans to come in numbers to support them in Soweto on Saturday. Tickets for the match are free but must be collected at Sasol Delight Convenience stores in the Johannesburg area.

Thus far Banyana Banyana have seen off the challenge of Zambia (5-1 on aggregate) and Tunisia (6-5 on penalties after 1-1 aggregate draw) in the Olympic qualifiers, which began back in January 2011. The victory over Tunisia, coming as it did via a penalty shootout, was particularly nerve-wracking, but it will all be worth it if the national team can secure a spot in London.

Standing between them and this goal is Ethiopia, who have impressed so far in the qualifiers by overcoming Congo DR 3-0 on aggregate and Ghana on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw. Ethiopia may only be ranked 106th in FIFA’s official world rankings (compared to Banyana’s 63rd placing) but make no mistake, the East Africans will be tough opponents.

The teams have met twice before in official internationals. The first encounter was in the group stages of the 2004 Women’s African Football Championships where Ethiopia emerged 2-1 victors in Pretoria. The second and most recent match between the two teams was a friendly held in Algiers in 2007 that was won 3-1 by Banyana Banyana.

South Africa’s preparations for the match gave gone well. Last weekend they crushed Mozambique 5-0 in an international friendly at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane. The result took Banyana to 11 wins from 13 matches this year under head coach Joseph Mkhonza.

Mkhonza named a full strength squad on Tuesday, 23 August 2011, that includes overseas-based stars Nompumelelo Nyandeni (Russia) and Kylie Ann Louw (USA). Amanda Dlamini, Nokou Matlou, Mary Ntsweng and Zanele Sukazi have also just returned to the team after travelling to China for the World Student Games. A Banyana side will also be in action at the All Africa Games starting in Mozambique next weekend.

The head coach is hoping for a packed house at the Orlando Stadium for what he has described as ÔÇ£perhaps the most important match of our players’ careersÔÇØ. The winners of the tie between South Africa and Ethiopia will join either Cameroon or Nigeria as the African qualifiers for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Brazil, Colombia, France and Sweden have already qualified, while Great Britain get an automatic place as hosts.