By Mark Etheridge
Lets make no bones about it… Banyana Banyana are on a hiding to nothing as they get Team South Africa’s 2012 Olympic Games underway against Sweden in Coventry on Wednesday night.
Our national women’s side are in a ghastly group with seemingly no let-up in the terms of quality opponents but to merely get to be part of the biggest global sporting extravaganza is already a job well done for this side.
They’re ranked a lowly 61st on the FIFA women’s world rankings and of their three Group F opponents, Canada (at seventh) are the lowest ranked side. That pretty much sums up the daunting task faced by Joseph Mkhonza’s team.
Wednesday’s opponents are ranked fourth in the world and then their final match of the Group will be against Japan, World Cup winners and currently ranked third in the world.
The good thing about the situation is that no-one is expecting them to cause too much in the way of upsets.
Sweden were third in the last Women’s World Cup and played hosts Great Britain last week drawing 0-0. South Africa also played Great Britain as part of their warm-up and went down 3-1 in Birmingham which gives us some sort of indication of where we fit in.
One has to assume that the South African girls will be wanting to find their feet in the opening stages of the 8pm (SA time) kick-off and make sure the Swedes don’t strike early and run away with things.
A draw would be celebrated as a victory in the Team SA ranks and would give them huge confidence going into their next matches, against Canada (also in Coventry) on Friday (the same day as the official Games opening ceremony) and Japan in Cardiff, Wales next Monday.
Certainly coach Mkhonza is embracing the moment saying┬á his players are “nervous but excited and can’t wait for the Olympic action to begin” and he doesn’t think his players will be that over-awed.
ÔÇ£We have known since we beat Ethiopia in September last year that we were going to play at the Olympics, so I don’t believe the moment will be too big for our players.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£We have had a look at the match venue and have a fully fit team of 18 players to choose from for the match against Sweden,ÔÇØ said Mkhonza.