Things have not gone smooth sailing for South Africa’s football teams at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The women’s team are packing their bags and heading back home after a disappointing campaign, while the hopes of the men’s team still hangs in the balance.
Banyana Banyana’s Olympic involvement ended after their second game defeat against China when they lost 2-0 in a lethargic performance. Banyana did not do themselves any favours when they lost to China, especially after all the hard work they put into their preparations playing high profile friendlies against powerhouses such as the Netherlands, United States of America and New Zealand.
Their last game against a red-hot Brazilian team on Wednesday (3am SA time) in Manaus might be too much of a big task for them.
Coach Vera Pauw put her team’s failed campaign down to inexperience and lack of professional growth.
“We are still learning we don’t have experience in our camp and it is because of the lack of a professional league in South Africa. The idea was not to win, we came here to learn,” she said.
As for the Young Bafana, they are still very much alive in the competition, and if they beat Iraq in a winner-takes-all game at the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo on Thursday (3am SA time), they will make history as the first SA men’s football team to qualify for an Olympic quarterfinal.
Young Bafana captured the hearts of the nation with their deserved goalless draw against Brazil in front of 69 000-strong crowd in Brasilia in their opening Group A encounter at the Mane Garrinch Stadium last week.
Many people were hoping that they would build on from that brave performance in their next game against Denmark, but they took one step backwards as they cruised to a 1-0 defeat leaving the group wide open.
Those same people thought that Iraq would be the whipping boys in the group, but instead Iraq held both Denmark and host nation Brazil to goalless draws and this is a clear sign that they should not be taken for granted.
Currently Denmark top the group with four points, Brazil are second with two points, Iraq third with two points and South Africa are bottom with one point.
The Young Bafana were guilty of not being consistent in their two matches.
“We lacked the fire power upfront against Denmark, but the goals have to come against Iraq otherwise we will pack our bags and head home too,” Coach Owen Da Gama said.
But Da Gama is happy that SA still have destiny in their hands. They just have to overcome Iraq as Brazil and Denmark will fight for the other qualifying spot when they clash at Fort Nova Arena in Salvador.
However a draw will not do for Young Bafana and Da Gama was adamant on this point saying “we have to win by all costs.”