2024 WOMEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFIERS: Crunch time for Banyana Banyana, as the away goal rule doesn’t apply

The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana are one match away from progressing to the next round of the 2024 Paris Women’s Olympic Qualifiers.

This is when they face the Democratic Republic of Congo in a winner-takes all clash on Monday, 30 October 2023 at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Kickoff is at 15h00 and entry is free.

South Africa and DR Congo played to a 1-all draw away in Kinshasa in the second round first leg fixture played on Wednesday (25 October 2023).

The last time Desiree Ellis’ charges were at this phase of the qualifiers they folded and lost to neighbours Botswana at the same Soweto venue, bombing out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – something they haven’t forgotten.

“Obviously missing out on the last Olympics was tough for us to take but we have a new opportunity now to really go for it, I think as players we’re now so much better than we were back then, the toughness has grown I think also just the maturity of everyone is so much bigger now. I think we just need to forget about what happened against Botswana and funny enough we back at Orlando Stadium, hopefully the good vibes come our way and we get the result that we need,” said Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Kaylin Swart ahead of the clash.

“I think every game we play there’s pressure. It’s going to take a lot of mentality and a lot of courage just to get off over the hurdle. I think we’re going to have to fight really hard to get that win and we are ready to fight, hopefully everyone’s ready to go to battle.”

Her sentiments were echoed by forward Thembi Kgatlana who scored in the 1-all draw away in Kinshasa.

“The disappointment of the last the Olympics is the fuel for us, I think everyone now can qualify and we have no excuse. I think at the end of the day the last two years or the last time we didn’t qualify for the Olympics we managed to build a great team and we are here with the coaches and the technical team, taking off from the momentum of winning the Africa Cup of Nations last year, playing all different friendlies to prepare for the World Cup and we’re here, I think it’s just also continuing to keep the momentum that we have and making sure that we take one match at a time until we get our goal which is to go to France,” said Kgatlana.

Ellis is expected to make changes to her starting line-up following the availability of the influential Jermaine Seoposenwe who missed the first leg due to her sorting out her residential documents back in Mexico where she plies her trade.

Also back in the team is Samkelisiwe Selana who was unable to travel due to visa challenges.

South Africa is chasing their third appearance in the Olympic Games following qualification in 2012 and 2016 under Joseph Mkhonza and Vera Pauw respectively.

With the away goal rule not applicable in the qualifiers, Ellis is aware that they will need to win outright but the first step is not conceding.

According to Rule 13 of Article 13: Competition format of the Rule and Regulations for the Olympic Qualifiers:

13.6  In the knockout format, both teams shall play one home and one away match each, the sequence of which shall be determined by lots drawn by FIFA. The team having scored most goals over the two games shall qualify for the next round. If the number of goals scored is equal or both matches end without any goals being scored, extra time of two periods of 15 minutes each shall be played at the end of the second leg. The extra-time period is an integral part of the second-leg match. Thus, if no goals are scored in extra time, or if the score is level after extra time, kicks from the penalty mark shall be taken to determine the winner, in accordance with the procedure described in the Laws of the Game.

The first 20 minutes is going to be key – we should not concede but must take the game to them, make sure that we are the team that scores the first goal because in that way we will put them under pressure, it’s all to play for,” said Ellis.

Also, we have personnel back, we are really looking forward to this game and I know we can play better. It will not be an easy one, but we are playing at home, and I hope the fans can come and support us.”

Away in Congo, the two countries played at the Stade Des Martyrs, which has an artificial turf, but now the action will be on grass at Orlando Stadium.

“Back on grass is good, in Kinshasa we had only one training session and I don’t think it was enough. It’s very difficult to play on artificial turf because the ball bounces in different ways. Back on the grass will really help us, but it will be the same for them as well. We just have to make sure we adapt very quickly and get the early goal and then dictate matters from there,” added Ellis.

The winning nation between South Africa and DR Congo will be back in action in February next year to face the victors between Tanzania – who are leading 2-0 from the first leg – and Botswana, with the second leg set be held on Tuesday (31 October) in Gaborone.

The fourth and final round to determine Africa’s two representatives at the Games will be held in April.

The 2024 Paris Olympic Games have been scheduled to take place from 26 July to 11 August.

By Matlhomola Morake

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