Banyana gets spot in 'group of death'

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pretoria - The South African senior women's team, Banyana Banyana, has been drawn in the toughest group of the 2012 London Olympics, which includes World Cup champions, Japan.

Banyana's group also includes Sweden and Canada, which are ranked fifth and seventh respectively in the FIFA World rankings.

Head coach Joseph Mkhonza said his team would have to work very hard in preparing to face the tough opponents.

"It will not be an easy task for us so we need to step up preparations to ensure that we're ready to compete against these three countries. But as you know the game of football can be very unpredictable and this all depends on how a team performs on the day.

"We are very optimistic given the fact that we've been having various training camps since the beginning of the year to ensure that we make our presence felt coming to the Olympics, as we look to promote women's football in South Africa," he said, shortly after the draw conducted in London on Tuesday.

The 18-strong Banyana team, which will compete in Group F as part of Team SA at the Olympics, will play Sweden in Coventry on 25 July, Canada in Coventry on 27 July and Japan in Cardiff on 31 July.

Group E will consist of Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil, while Group G includes the USA, France, Colombia and North Korea.

The top two teams from each of the three groups, plus the two best ranked third placed teams, go through to the last eight round of the competition.

Despite being ranked 65th on the FIFA world rankings, the Banyana Banyana coach and players are upbeat about competing against the leading women's football nations at the world's premier multi-sport spectacle.

Banyana skipper Amanda Dlamini was equally optimistic about the draw.

"Drawing World Cup champions in our group... well, it doesn't get much more challenging than that, but we are a highly competitive unit and we will ensure that we play well to make all those who have been supporting us, in South Africa and across the African continent, proud.

"It's a dream come true for Banyana to be a part of Team SA at the Olympics and I can assure you that the players will be working harder than ever in training in the hope of being among the 18 athletes who will get the chance to compete in London," she said.