The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana edged closer to booking their tickets to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games after a clinical display saw them dispose of the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 (3-1 on aggregate) at Orlando Stadium on Monday (30 October 2023). The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw, thanks to a Thembi Kgatlana equaliser in the second half.
South Africa went into the return fixture more determined, not wanting the repeat of 2019 when they fell to Botswana at the same venue (Soweto) and in the same round.
Desiree Ellis made four changes to the team that started in Kinshasa – bringing on Andile Dlamini, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Linda Motlhalo and Nicole in place Kaylin Swart, Amogelang Motau, Gabby Salgado Kholosa Biyana.
The hosts managed to deny the visitors any chance at goal and at the break there was still a stalemate.
With the away goal rule not in effect in the Olympic qualifiers, both sides needed to win to progress.
It was South Africa that broke the deadlock in the 71st minute through Kgatlana following a brilliant move – Biyana, who came on in the second half for Hildah Magaia, spread a long, delightful and defence-splitting pass which landed on Michael’s feet and she fed Kgatlana who had an open net for a one-nil lead – her second goal in two games.
In the 88th minute it was more of the same as Michael again outpaced her marker and passed on to Kgatlana who beat the opposition goalkeeper hands down – and it was game, set and match.
“I thought we didn’t start well but we ended off the game really well. We could have gone into the break at halftime with the lead. In the second bringing in Kholosa and pushing Linda a little bit further up gave us that little more impetus going forward and then we got the goals. We also tried to keep the ball and make sure that we didn’t concede, but we still have that age-old problem of not finishing teams off when we have them, when we have those opportunities,” said Ellis.
It was a good overall display by Banyana Banyana over the two legs despite missing some key players through either injury, examinations, residence permits or visas.
Among others, South Africa was without the defensive wall of Bambanani Mbane, Bongeka Gamede, Tiisetso Makhubela and Noko Matlou, who were all at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – but the replacements did not disappoint.
“I am very proud of the team, as I said we have a new backline, a very young backline. There are so many players that are not available, but they stood up and I think over these two games they’ve really matured and grown and that augurs well for the future because we’re not just working, looking at now, but we also looking into the future, so we have to make sure that we refresh, make sure that we give players an opportunity and that’s what happened today,” added Ellis.
The three-time CAF Woman Coach of the Year says they were also inspired by the victorious 2023 Rugby World Champions, the Springboks, who successfully defended their Webb Ellis trophy in a nail-biting 12-11 win over New Zealand in the final on Saturday night (28 October) in France.
“We decided to watch the Springboks, singing the national anthem along with them and I think Kaylin (Swart) came to me afterwards and said, ‘coach we are ready.’ The inspiration the Springboks showed, they (Springboks) put their bodies on the line because they surely know who they were playing for, for the people back home and we do the same and we were really happy that the fans came out to support us,” said Ellis.
South Africa will next take on the winner between Tanzania and Botswana who play the second leg on Tuesday (31 October 2023) in Gaborone. The East Africans have a 2-0 lead from the first leg.
The third round will take place in February next year, with the fourth and final round scheduled for April 2024.
The Paris Olympic Games will be held from 26 July to 11 August 2024 – and the African continent has been allocated only two slots.
Banyana Banyana is attempting to qualify for their third appearance after London 2012 with Joseph Mkhonza and Rio 2016 with Vera Pauw.
|Match Schedule: Qualifiers|
|First round||10–18 July 2023|
|Second round||23–31 October 2023|
|Third round||19–28 February 2024|
|Fourth round||1–9 April 2024|
BANYANA BANYANA PLAYERS MISSING FROM THE DRC FIXTURE:
Jermaine Seoposenwe – DID NOT TRAVEL TO DRC, BUT AVAILABLE 2ND LEG
Samkelisiwe Selana – DID NOT TRAVEL TO DRC, BUT AVAILABLE 2ND LEG
SA Starting 11 v DR Congo:
Andile Dlamini (GK), Fikile Magama, Wendy Shongwe, Lonathemba Mhlongo, Karabo Dhlamini, Linda Motlhalo, Noxolo Cesane, Nicole Michael, (90’ Gabriela Salgado), Hilda Magaia (54’ Kholosa Biyana), Thembi Kgatlana (c), Jermaine Seoposenwe
Kaylin Swart (GK), Katlego Moletsane (GK), Faith Nokuthula, Asanda Hadebe, Kholosa Biyana, Ayesha Moosa, Amogelang Motau, Gabriela Salgado, Samkelisiwe Selana
Head Coach: Desiree Ellis
By Matlhomola Morake