Banyana Banyana goal-getter Noko Matlou will be keen to build on her impressive statistics of 41 goals in 52 international appearances, when the South African senior national women’s team take on Tunisia in their return leg Olympic Qualifier fixture in Tunis on Sunday (4pm kick-off, SA time).
Having scored a goal in each of Banyana Banyana’s past five outings, Matlou is as aware of the need to hit the target in Tunis ÔÇô just as much as the Tunisians are aware of the need to block out the threat of the centre forward ÔÇô named as the CAF African Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2009.
Her strike partner, Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini, is a good reader of the play and apart from being capable of finding the back of the goal net herself, has the ability to play Matlou into goal-scoring positions.
The left-hand side of the Banyana Banyana midfield has been strengthened with the return of Mamello Makhabane, who missed her team’s 1-0 win over the Tunisians in Durban due to a groin strain.
Makhabane, who plays her football for Sasol League National Champions Palace Super Falcons in Gauteng, proved her class against the continent’s best sides at the CAF African Women Championship 2010 held in Ekurhuleni near Johannesburg last November.
Her return could see midfielder Gabisile Hlumbane, who plays for Kovsies FC (Sasol League Free State), returning to the middle of the park after she excelled in deputising for Makhabane┬á on the left flank in Durban. Hlumbane is equally at home with her left or right foot ÔÇô something that is worth its weight in gold to the travelling team.
Russian-based Nompumelelo Nyandeni, who will make her 89th Banyana Banyana appearance on Sunday, is one of the best attacking midfielders on the continent, and her team-mates will look to her experience and ability when the match is played in front of an expected large crowd.
But it’s defence where the South Africans are expected to have to soak up a lot of pressure after being subjected to a relatively quiet day on the park by the Tunisian attack during the first leg outing.
ÔÇ£As a coach, I have travelled with national teams to Tunisia before and I am ready for any mind games that may come the way of Banyana Banyana over the next few days. The Tunisians will be a different entity on their home ground and ideally, we will need an early goal to really put them under pressure and force them to throw players forward, which will open up space on the field for our speedy players to take advantage of,ÔÇØ said Banyana Banyana caretaker coach Joseph Mkhonza.
Central defender Janine van Wyk, nicknamed ‘Booth’ after the Bafana Bafana defender Matthew Booth, will need to put in a big performance, with her free-kicks from attacking positions being one of Banyana Banyana’s most dangerous weapons. Defensively, the girls in green look well organised and have depth.
Van Wyk apart, Port-Elizabeth-based teenager Amanda Sister and University of Johannesburg’s Yola Jafta are are tough-tackling fearless central defenders, while in Simphiwe Masina, Mkhonza has a player who can slot at either left-back or right-back in the rearguard.
Nothando Vilakazi has seemingly had a new lease of life in the Banyana Banyana jersey after having missed the cut for the African women’s showpiece, and is growing in confidence in the left-back position.
In goal, Thoko ‘TK’ Mndaweni will need to be at her best but like several of her team-mates looks to have taken her level of play to a higher standard than what it was six months ago.