After a break from training on Thursday morning (21 May), Banyana Banyana were soon back on the field to prepare for the first leg Olympic qualifier against the female Panthers of Gabon.
Vera Pauw’s charges safely arrived in the country on Wednesday night (20 May). The clash is set for Saturday, 23 May at Stade Augustin Monedan.
Kick-off is scheduled for 15:30 (16:30 South African time). The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana go into the match on the back of having booked their ticket for the 2015 All Africa Games, which will be held in Congo later this year. But the South Africans do not have much information on about their opponents who last played an international match in 2010.
Midfielder Amanda Dlamini is confident that they will come out with a positive result, saying: ‘We are all aware that we are playing a team that we don’t know much about, but we are just focusing on our game plan and what we have to do. If we can just stick to that, it will help ease the pressure on the return leg. Everyone is excited and enthusiastic about the game. They are all aware how important the match is and this is another step towards our development as a team, but also in ensuring that we qualify for Rio 2016. We have been preparing quiet well, we just need to keep our heads up and make sure we focus to the maximum level.’ Banyana Banyana will be looking to yet again taste the experience of competing at the level of the Olympic Games, having only appeared once – in 2012. This will be their first match without the influential and experienced striker, Portia Modise, who announced her immediate retirement from international football on Tuesday, 19 May – on the eve of the team’s departure to Gabon.
Coach Pauw says: ‘There will never be another Portia Modise, she played a big role in the team and the players are sad that she will no longer be a part of the team. She did well and she is retiring having achieved greatness.’