Banyana in farewell jamboree against Reggae GirlzThomas Kwenaite
South Africa’s senior national women team will play a farewell match against Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on April 7 before heading for their maiden FIFA World Cup tournament in France.
There are a lot of similarities between the African and their Caribbean opponents besides just wearing the same national colors of gold and green and interestingly, both countries have qualified for the premier event for the first time in the history of their football.
In what could perhaps be described as a case of de javu, their senior men team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in France and now 21 years later, their country’s flags would be hoisted for the first time in the same country – France – only this time by the women teams.
But while Jamaica qualified for France for securing a bronze medal in the CONCACAF tournament after beating the Dominican Republic 4-2 in a penalty shootout, the South Africans won silver in the African Women Cup of Nations after losing 5-3 to Nigeria in a penalty shootout to also qualify for France.
Both debutants have been drawn in really tough groups with the Africans thrown into Group B with European power-houses Spain and Germany as well as South American giants Argentina. The Jamaicans have to contend with Australia, Italy and Brazil in Group C.
It had not been the best of preparations for Banyana Banyana though as the South Africans secured a single point and suffered two losses in three group matches at the ongoing Cyprus Cup tournament.
They started brightly though, twice coming back from a goal down to level with Finland in the opening match that ended 2-2. But fell apart against a rampant Korea DPR 4-1 and in the most painful defeat, conceded two late goals to lose 2-1 against 10-women Czech Republic after leading until the 86th minute.
These defensive frailties are areas that needs to be corrected by coach Desiree Ellis ahead of the Mundial and perhaps the game against the sleek moving and equally skillful Reggae Girlz will give them an opportunity to iron out a few rough edges to their defensive play.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) acting CEO Russell Paul has urged the public to come in greater numbers to the iconic stadium to bid farewell to Banyana Banyana as they embark on their greatest mission ever since re-admission to FIFA back in 1992.