Banyana and Super Falcons on collision courseThomas Kwenaite
South Africa’s Banyana Banyana and the Super Falcons of Nigeria must be wondering what they have to do in order to avoid each other in competitive football.
But such is the nature of football that the West and Southern African countries that have built such an incredibly fierce rivalry that leaves the continent standing still whenever they meet, are destined to come face-to-face in qualification for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The two served out two thrilling encounters during the recently ended African Women Cup of Nations tournament in Ghana where the South Africans triumphed 1-0 during the group stages through Thembi Kgatlana’s stunning strike.
They met in the final of the tournament for the gold medal and although both had qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals in France when they faced off in the final, their encounter ended in a stalemate decided 4-3 on penalties by Nigeria.
Now as the campaign for the 2020 Olympic Games get underway during the first week of April, the two protagonists are on a collision course to meet in the fourth and final round of qualifiers, but of course it depends if they manage to negotiate their ways past very tricky opponents.
Nigeria meets neighbors Cote d’Ivoire who were awarded a walk-over against Sierra Leone over two legs during April and if successful, will advance to the next round where old nemesis Equatorial Guinea or Cameroon awaits them.
Nigeria is well aware that the Lionesses of Cameroon prevented them from qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics and Equatorial Guinea have defeated them previously, particularly in the final of the AWCON and either of the two opponents will not be pushovers.
And if they have been successful up to that stage, and provided Banyana Banyana have also cleared their own path which is also strewn with difficult obstacles, the two countries would meet in the final encounter.
South Africa start their campaign against the winner between Botswana and Zimbabwe. While they have always found it easier to negotiate their way past Botswana, the same cannot be said about Zimbabwe who almost always seem to reserve their best for Banyana.
Granted, Desiree Ellis appear to have assembled quite a formidable squad led by youngsters Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo, Refiloe Jane and Jermaine Seoposenwe, but they all agree that coming up against the Zimbabweans is always a Herculean task.
And if they get past the Zimbabweans, there awaits either the Shepolopolo of Zambia or the Black Queens of Ghana, quite formidable opponents and very respected football playing nations themselves.
And if successful, then it goes without saying that Africa is in store for yet another titanic encounter between South Africa and Nigeria.