JOHANNESBURG — Banyana Banyana’s 2012 Olympic Group draw along with World Cup champions Japan and Top 10-ranked nations in Sweden and Canada, has been met with a level of optimism by national team head coach Joseph Mkhonza.
The 18-strong Banyana team, which will compete in Group F as part of Team SA at the Olympics, will face Sweden (number five in the world) in Coventry on July 25, Canada (number seven in the world) in Coventry on July 27 and Japan in Cardiff on July 31.
Group E will consist of Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil, while Group G includes US, 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 coach and players are upbeat about competing against the leading women’s football nations at the world’s premier multi-sport spectacle.
“We are very humbled to be here as this is a very historic day for us as South Africans as we have been drawn against some high profile teams,” said Mkhonza, speaking from London after the draw.
“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, thanks to Sasol and Safa, 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.”
Captain of the South African Senior Women’s National Team, Amanda Dlamini, was equally optimistic.
“Drawing World Cup champions Japan in our group . . . well, it doesn’t come much more challenging than that, but we are a highly competitive unit and will give it our all to make all those who have been supporting us, including the football fans in South Africa and across the African continent proud.
“It’s a dream come true for Banyana 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 says.