Swedish captain predicts that Banyana can do an Italian job

Swedish captain predicts that Banyana can do an Italian job

By Andile Dladla & Mandla Dladla

Swedish midfielder Magdalena Eriksson is of the view that South Africa can upset Italy and qualify for the knockout stage of the ongoing FIFA Women World Cup staged in Australia and New Zealand.

In a post match interview after their 5-0 demolition of the Italians who face South Africa in Wellington on Wednesday, the Swiss midfielder admitted that Desiree Ellis’s troops gave them certainly the hardest fight of their lives before they clinched a last gasp 2-1 victory.

“They (Banyana Banyana) did a really good job in shutting us down,” confessed Eriksson. “They did not give us the luxury of playing the way that we wanted. They didn’t give us any space, neither did they give us time to settle on the ball.

“In addition, they have very strong attacking players and were hard to defend against. So, I really think they can be dangerous against Italy and if they work a little harder, they could upset Italy. I strongly believe they have a really good chance against Italy,” she added.

Meanwhile, Italian captain Elena Linari admitted that their zonal marking against Sweden was not up to scratch and they just couldn’t defend set-pieces against the taller Swedes and were subsequently exposed cruelly in the process.

“We now know that it is equally not going to be easy against South Africa,” she admitted. “We watched them against Sweden and Argentina and while they controlled the game against the South Americans, they were unfortunate to lose against Sweden with a few seconds left on the clock.

“But we knew after the draw was conducted that this group was not going to be an easy ride. This is after-all the World Cup. Every team that is here have brought with them their “A” game.

Asked if they will go full throttle or would be conservative against South Africa seeing that they only need a draw to proceed, Linari said being conservative could be suicidal as the strategy could backfire.

“Maybe we might think that we need to conserve the energy considering that they (South Africa) played on Friday while we played on Saturday. So, we have one day less to rest. But we are not thinking of going for a draw at all. We will go flat-out for a win even though we know it is not going to be easy.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s inspirational captain – Refiloe Jane – has been declared fit and ready for the final Group G make-or-break fixture against the Italians.

Jane was withdrawn during Banyana Banyana’s epic encounter against Argentina within the first 20 minutes last Friday after landing awkwardly and appeared to have twisted her ankle.

And although the South Africans went on to race into a commanding 2-0 lead, the African champions capitulated badly in a crazy five-minute spell as they conceded twice to share the spoils with Argentina.

It was obvious that they missed the calm and influential leadership of Jane in order to have managed the match better and in the end held on for dear life as Argentina threatened to steal all three points.

Taking nothing away from Kholosa Biyana who substituted the Sassoulo FC ace midfielder, she just could not bring to the table what Jane is able to do when the going gets tough and rougher.

Against third ranked Sweden in the opening match, South Africa were first out of the blocks, but crumbled badly afterwards and conceded a last gasp, heart-breaking second goal in the 89th minute to lose 2-1.

A lot of South Africans believe that South Africa had no business to have shared the spoils with Argentina, considering the number of chances they created throughout a game they controlled from the get go.

But decision making was their main downfall as they sometimes chose wrong options within the last third and sometimes elected to shoot when a better positioned team-mate was available.

There is no doubt that Jane will be a key figure in this match and not because of her influence, but the fact that she plays her football in Italy and knows the Italian women better than anyone else in the Banyana Banyana set-up.

Neither of the two sides can afford to lose and while a draw would be enough for Italy to proceed to the knockout stage, it would condemn South Africa to pack their bags and come back home.

And a victory is imperative for South Africa as it would take them to four points, one more than the Italians. And few hold the view that Argentina will upset the high riding Swedes in the group.

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