By Sizakele Nkosi
The South African Women’s National Team will play a friendly match against New Zealand on 28 July in Brazil. The game against New Zealand will take place six days ahead of Banyana Banyana’s first game at the 2016 Rio Olympic games against Sweden.
Prior to the New Zealand match, Banyana will lock horns with USA on the 9 July in Chicago. Five days afterwards, Coach Vera Pauw will have to cut down her squad to the required number of players for the Olympic Games. Each team competing at the Games are required to have 22 players (18 + 4 additional players). Pauw will hand in the final list to the South African Sports Confederation, Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and FIFA.
The Sasol sponsored team played two friendly matches against the Netherlands and Banyana were beaten by narrow margins; 1-0 in the first and 2-0. In the second match with the Netherlands scoring their second goal very late in second half.
“It was a tremendous time out there- because it was more about less time on the ball, less space for action. I am happy that we could for the majority of the game, although the Netherlands was better because of their experience. They have been to the world cup and European championships. They are 13th. The focus is more about keeping our concentration on the task at hand. You can’t drop it at any moment because at that level you get punished immediately. Under the pressure of less time and space this is very difficult. No one can concentrate fully for 90 min plus additional time. Experience makes you totally being focused on the key moments of your task,” said Pauw.
In Olympic qualifying, the Football Ferns won their away first leg 7-1 against Papua New Guinea but the second leg never happened as the away team failed to get necessary visas required into New Zealand.
New Zealand women’s national team ranked 16th in the world, are definitely no minnows on the international football stage. This is the third consecutive time the Oceanic nation has qualified for the Olympic games, in addition to the Women’s World Cup.
This would be Pauw’s first ever Olympics whether as a former player and now coach. She has led her country the Netherlands to a continental semi-final at the 2009 UEFA Women’s Euro.
South Africa in Group E: Sweden, China and Brazil
New Zealand in Group G: USA, France and Colombia
International Friendly Matches
9 July: USA vs SA, Chicago, Soldier Field
28 July: New Zealand vs SA, venue and time TBC