Banyana Banyana face an uphill battle to qualify for next year’s Olympics after losing 1-nil to Ghana in a third round Olympic qualifier at the Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria yesterday.
But, according to Banyana Banyana team manager, Fran Hilton Smith, the result could have gone South Africa’s way had the Zimbabwean referee not disallowed a goal with less than 20 minutes to go.
Ghana capitalised on South Africa’s disappointment shortly afterwards by scoring the only goal of the match to secure a vital away win.
“Banyana Banyana played brilliantly! They played way above themselves but the referee killed us. She just absolutely killed us. We scored a perfectly legitimate goal after really fighting hard to score and she disallowed it. We’ve watched it again and again and there’s just no reason she should have disallowed it.
“Ghana then broke through and scored a goal to give them a 1-nil victory. It was very disappointing for us; again the referee cost us. But the girls played extremely well, they had a huge response from the crowd, and they couldn’t have done more.”
So, where does this leave Banyana Banyana’s Olympic hopes?
“Now, we’re in trouble. We have to beat Ghana and Nigeria again. We play Ghana in December and we play Nigeria in February. Now, we have to beat both of them to even stand a chance, and still hope that Nigeria can beat Ghana next time around.
“It makes things very difficult and it’s just so disappointing when you had it wrapped up and it gets taken away, its just criminal.
Another problem is the lack of game time for Banyana Banyana between now and December when they face Ghana in a must win match.
“We’re hoping that we can get them to at least have a friendly sometime between now and December, but it’s always very difficult when they’re not in camp.
“When there is no competition they don’t camp. It’s going to be a struggle to get them to have a camp but I think it’s important if we want to be prepared for these next two games.
The top placed team at the end of the qualifiers automatically qualifiers for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, while the runners-up engage Brazil in play off for the other slot.