The South African Women’s Senior National Team Banyana Banyana may be the new kids on the block in terms of Olympic Games level experience, but statistics will be far from their minds when they represent Team SA, and the country, in their opening Group F fixture against Sweden in Coventry, England on Wednesday, 25 July (20h00 kick-off SA time, televised coverage on SS4).
Thanks to the firm financial backing of Sasol, the South Africans have had a solid build-up to the Olympic Games, and will put Sweden’s statistics far out of their minds when they lace up their boots for action. Sasol is also the official sponsor of Team SA at the Olympics and Paralympics respectively.
While Banyana Banyana is placed 4th on the Confederation of African football rankings, the Swedes are ranked 2nd in Europe.
Sweden beat France 2-1 in the playoff for third and fourth places at the 2011 FIFA World Cup held in Germany last year, and it is these two nations that will represent Europe at the Olympics over the next few weeks.
South Africa’s head coach Joseph Mkhonza, who played as a striker for South African professional sides Kaizer Chiefs and African Wanderers in the 1970s, described the mood among the Banyana Banyana players as “nervous but excited, and can’t wait for the Olympic Games action to begin”.
“We have had a look at the match venue and have a fully fit team of 18 players to choose from for the match against Sweden,” said Mkhonza.
“We have known since we beat Ethiopia in September last year that we were going to play at the Olympics, so I don’t believe the moment will be too big for our players.”
Following the match against Sweden, the South Africans will play their next Group F fixture at the same venue on Saturday, 28 July 2012 against Canada (15h45 kick-off), before playing FIFA World Cup women’s champions Japan in Cardiff, Wales in their final group fixture on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 (15h30 kick-off).
The 12 teams have been drawn in three groups of four teams each, with the top two sides from each group and the best two third placed teams, qualifying for the last eight knockout stage of the competition.