Banyana Banyana returned to training on Sunday, 1 March after enjoying a day off on Saturday, 28 February following a week of thorough preparations. Some members of the team travelled to the nearby city of Nicosia – about 45-minute drive from the base camp in Ayia Napa in Cyprus for some sight-seeing. The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana are in Cyprus to take part in the annual Cyprus Women’s Cup which runs from 4 – 12 March.
This is a global invitational tournament for selected women national teams and has been held annually in Cyprus since 2008. Although the competition takes place in Cyprus, the hosts have yet to take part in the competition. The Cyprus Women’s Cup uses the following two-phase format: The first phase is a group stage in which the twelve invited teams are divided into three groups of four teams.
South Africa is in Group C alongside Mexico, Belgium and the Czech Republic. Group A is made up of Canada, Italy, Korea Republic and Scotland while Group B comprises Australia, England, Finland and Netherlands. The teams in Group A and Group B consist of higher-ranked teams and are the only teams actually in contention for the championship. Group C consists of lower-ranked teams.
Each group plays a round-robin of three games, with each team playing one match against each of the other teams in the same group. The second phase is a single “finals day” in which six games involving all twelve teams are played to determine the tournament’s final standings, with the match-ups as follows:
• 1st place match: Winners of Groups A and B
• 3rd place match: Winner of Group C and best runner-up from Groups A and B
• 5th place match: Runner-up in Group C and second-best runner-up from Groups A and B
• 7th place match: Third-place teams in Groups A and B
• 9th place match: Third-place team in Group C and best fourth-place team from Groups A and B
• 11th place match: Fourth-place team in Group C and second-best fourth-place team from Groups A and B
Based on the above, South Africa can contest for third place (as winner of group C), or fifth place (as runner up of Group C), or ninth place (as third placed team in Group C) or eleventh place (as bottom of Group C). Banyana Banyaba arrived in Ayia Napa on Thursday, 26 February. South Africa kick off the tournament with a clash against Mexico on Wednesday, 4 March.
The second match will be against Belgium on Friday, 6 March followed by an encounter against the Czech Republic on Monday, 9 March. Banyana Banyana boss Vera Pauw says: ‘These are the kind of tournaments we should be playing if we are to see our team improve. The good thing is that we will be facing some of the big names in women’s football and it comes at a time when we are preparing for participation in the upcoming All-Africa Games and Olympic qualifiers. We could not have asked for better preparation as this will stand the girls in good stead. It is a good opportunity for the team and the country and will help us measure ourselves against the best in the business because this is a top tournament.’ This is the eighth edition of the tournament and South Africa has made four appearances at the competition.
They started participating in 2009, finishing in sixth place, and eighth the following year. They missed 2011 event. In 2012 they ended in position 10 and 11th in 2013. They did not attend last year’s edition.
Canada, Netherlands and Scotland have been ever present in the competition since inception – and it is no surprise that Canada have the most wins – three. They won the inaugural tournament after they defeated the United States of America 3-2 in the final. France are the defending champions following their 2-nil victory over England to lift the trophy last year.