South Africa’s hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the ongoing Women’s Football tournament of the Rio 2016 Olympics were dealt a heartbreaking 2-0 blow by the Peoples’ Republic of China on Saturday.
The late goals in either half by Gu Yasha and Tan Ruyin was all the Steel Roses needed to increase their own chances of a slot in the next round.
With both sides having lost their opening matches, the yearning for victory was immense, but it was Banyana Banyana that started as the brighter of the teams, coming close to taking the lead in the early seconds through forward Jermaine Seoposenwe whose left-footed shot taken in the Chinese penalty area was denied the back of the net after it could only hit the goalkeeper Zhao Lina.
As China began to settle in the game, action swung from side to side like a pendulum with South Africa depending on the superb pace of Thembi Kgatlana to hit on the counter.
Kgatlana was one of the two changes coach Vera Pauw made to the starting line up that lost 1-0 to Sweden. She was drafted into the official squad of 18 players following an ankle injury to Shiwe Nogwanya, who has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament. While Linda Motlhalo replaced former captain, Amanda Dlamini.
Still in search of their first goal of the tournament, Seoposenwe saw her shot blocked in the 12th minute, and then watched another clear chance go begging after hesitating in front of goal.
While at the other end Banyana Banyana captain Janine Van Wyk was on hand to frustrate almost every Chinese effort at goal as Roxanne Barker was at some point forced to make a pointblank save.
Continuous pressure on the South African defence meant easy penetration for China’s Yang Li who should have scored the first goal for the Asians after she successfully rounded Barker but ended up running wide and the ball went out of play.
Van Wyk then hit the crossbar from a rebound after her initial attempt from a freekick was blocked by the wall.
However, while it seemed like the game will remain goalless at the break, Gu Yash struck in the one minute added on and Barker could do nothing about it.
China came back in the second half with a lot more momentum and their one goal lead, intimidating South Africa who seemed to still be ruing the first half chances they missed.
Barker was tested, time and time again that she had to make crucial saves three times in a space of six minutes to keep South Africa in the game.
However, in spite of having the tip of her fingers to it, China’s second goal was inevitable. Tan Ruyin’s powerful and spectacular long range shot beat Barker in the 87th minute to make it 2-0 for China and put to rest every hope of a South African comeback.
The result means Banyana Banyana are yet to score a goal or register a point so far in the Women’s Football Tournament at the Olympics.
Next up for them is a date with host nation Brazil at the Amazonia Arena.