Banyana seek redemption at Rio Games

2016-08-02 07:02

In 2012, Banyana Banyana got a baptism of fire at their maiden Olympic Games when they lost 4-1 to Sweden.

Four years later, they have a chance to avenge that defeat in their opening match at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.

The match kicks off at 6pm South African time.

These two sides, as well as Brazil, Germany and Colombia are the only five countries represented in both men’s and women’s tournaments at this year’s event.

Since their loss to Sweden, Banyana have made strides under Vera Pauw and they should do better than they did four years ago when they were knocked out in the first round.

While qualifying for the back-to-back Games was a huge step forward, they need to make it count.

The only Olympic goal scorer for Banyana, Portia Modise, believes they can make it, but says it will not be easy.

“Sweden is one of the best teams in the world. They are good in the air and also on the ground, and it will be difficult for us to match them pound for pound,” said Modise, who retired from football last year after making 124 appearances for the team.

“We should be cautious in our play because they are a good side. Unfortunately, we play the kind of game that will suit them – long balls – because of their physique. We should rather try to keep the ball on the ground because we have players to do that.”

Banyana will rely on the likes of Sanah Mollo, who has scored 21 goals in 69 games, and the experience of Mpumi Nyandeni and Amanda Dlamini, who were all at the London Games.

As usual, captain Janine van Wyk will lead from the back with Noko Matlou.

Dlamini, Van Wyk, Matlou and Nyandeni are the team’s most experienced campaigners with more than 100 caps each.

Since qualifying for the Rio Games, Banyana have been keeping busy with either training camps or friendly matches. Earlier this month, they narrowly lost 1-0 to world champions USA in Chicago. They also lost to Holland in two international friendly games in June.

But their performances have been improving with each game and this gives them hope.

It still won’t be easy as Banyana also have to contend with Brazil and China in their group.

They will come face to face with 30-year-old star Marta, who will lead Brazil’s squad.

Banyana and Brazil will meet in their final group match on Women’s Day.

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