South African women’s Olympic football captain, Janine van Wyk, says it’s crunch time for Banyana Banyana as they face Sweden in the opening match of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on Wednesday.
The clash will take place at the Olympic Stadium starting at 1pm local time.
Banyana Banyana and Sweden are not new to each other, the two nations having also met in the first match of the 2012 London Olympics where South Africa lost 4-1 with their only goal in the tournament coming from the now-retired Portia Modise’s super strike from way out.
At the time, Banyana Banyana were ranked 61st compared to Sweden’s fourth place ranking.
South Africa were in Group F with Japan, Canada and Sweden.
Banyana Banyana finished bottom of the group with just one point and Sweden finished top of the group but went on to lose 2-1 to France in the quarter-finals.
USA won the tournament, Brazil came second while Canada and France took third and fourth place respectively.
In Brazil, South Africa are in the same group with Sweden, China and Brazil and Sweden are now ranked sixth and South Africa 52nd.
SAFA spoke to captain Van Wyk two days out from the opening clash.
The time you have all been waiting for has now arrived, it’s crunch time.
Janine van Wyk: Yes indeed, it is crunch time. The nerves are starting to kick in – the good ones though. We have been preparing for this moment for a very long time, about eight months to be precise, and it’s finally happening. The girls are feeling it and we have been talking among ourselves that this is the time we have been working so hard for. We have been meeting these girls (Sweden team) up and down the elevator, and thinking that those are the opponents we will be facing. We also were thinking that in 2012 in London it was our opening match against them and the result was not what we expected, which makes it a game that is unforgettable. When people ask me today who was the toughest opponent we have ever faced, it would be Sweden who beat us 4-1 in 2012 and we were not well prepared. This time around we are looking forward to the match and going for it as best as we can, with the team high on confidence in ourselves as a group. I think we are really capable of getting a good result if we just stick together and work on the aspects we have been working on for the past eight months. This game will give us a lot of confidence going forward if we get a good result – so we are really looking forward to as it means a lot to us, probably one of the most important matches of the tournament to get a good start for ourselves.
Any of the Sweden players you recognise from four years ago?
JvW: Yes absolutely, most if not all of them and we know what a quality team they are, but so are we, their coach is also highly experienced, so we need to focus on ourselves and I think we can give them a good run if we play our game and give our best.
As you say, both teams (SA and Sweden) haven’t changed much from four years ago in London, does that change things?
JvW: I think so, we are now much more fitter, stronger and more experienced in our play. There are 10 players in our squad who were at the London Olympics, so the experience is there and we know what to expect around us. We played some international friendly matches against the world’s best teams and we know what to expect from these teams, especially Sweden. We know what they are capable of but we can also capitalise on their weaknesses as well, we will use our strength to benefit our game and see where that takes us.
The loss to New Zealand wasn’t a good end to preparations and certainly not the way to go before first game of the tournament.
JvW: Well it is a wake-up call, and I am glad it happened out of competition where there were some distractions around us – from being in the Olympic Village and being overwhelmed by it all. In 2012 we were not in the Village, so this is a totally new experience for us, so all those distractions got the better of us and it wasn’t a good start for us. It was an indication that we need to up our game and concentrate fully on what we are here for and what we have been working hard for, for a couple of months. We are really happy that it happened (the loss to New Zealand), that we got the shock of our lives – luckily it did not happen against Sweden in the opening match.
In London you were just one of the players, on Wednesday against Sweden you will lead the team as captain. How does that make you feel?
JvW: I have been thinking about it for a long time, leading my team out on to the field in the Olympic Games for the first time. But I have been captain for quite some time now, so it is not that new in a sense but I am pretty confident in the team that I will be leading out, hopefully we can do our best and show the world what South Africa is about.
Banyana Banyana fixtures for 2016 Olympics:
Wednesday 3 August
Sweden vs South Africa
13h00 (18h00 SA Time)
Saturday 6 August
South Africa vs China
19h00 (12h00 midnight SA Time)
Tuesday 9 August
South Africa vs Brazil
Amazonia Arena (Manaus)
21h00 (02h00 Wednesday, 10 Aug SA Time)