Banyana close to being African soccer queens
After four times on the losing end, Cup final provides Banyana with a payback opportunity
South Africa will hold its collective breath as Banyana Banyana take on Equatorial Guinea in the African Women’s Championship final at Malabo Stadium in a 5.30pm (SA time) kick-off today.
The winner will be crowned the African soccer queens, and having exorcised the Nigerian demons – a team that has beaten them consistently in the past – by overcoming them 1-0 in the semifinal, good money is on
the South African women to make the nation proud.
Their victory over Nigeria on Wednesday was a tonic for a shocked South African nation that had just learnt that their beloved Bafana Bafana had plummeted a further eight places down the Fifa rankings.
Also, what a time to do it, given that only a week ago, Joseph “Skheshekheshe” Mkonza was awarded the coveted Coach of the Year accolade at the SA Sports Awards ceremony.
Mkhonza has surpassed all his predecessors by guiding the team to its first Olympic Games and becoming the first to overcome the Super Falcons of Nigeria.
The final provides for perfect payback time, as Nzalang Nacionale has beaten Banyana on four occasions, including denying them the title; and in 2008, beating them 2-1 in the final.
Equitorial Guinea also beat Banyana 1-0 in the opening game of this tournament.
“Guinea is a very talented team,” conceded Mkhonza in a telephone interview on Friday.
“They have been among the top teams in Africa for some time now. But we are also one of the best on the continent.
“We have the fitness, mentality and the heart to win the game when it matters most. As you saw in the last game, we will never give up.”
He confidently added: “We have the experience to win games under all sorts of pressure. It takes more than one dimension to be an African champion.”
Quality in this match should not come in for scrutiny, as Banyana are ranked number three on the continent and their opponents are just a slot below.
The two captains, Amanda Dlamini and Guinea’s Genoveva Añonma Nze, will prove to be pivotal in the game.
While Dlamini has diligently marshalled the midfield, Añonma has chipped in with some vital goals upfront and is the tournament’s top markswoman, with a tally of five goals thus far.
Banyana’s post-Olympic performances suggest that they have everything going right for them, proving that they learnt a lot at the event despite being eliminated in the first round.
The team has just kept going up and up.
Vice-captain Janine van Wyk, who scored the decider against Nigeria – a serious contender for goal of the year, struck from 25 yards out – has shown loads of big-match temperament.
Newcomer Andiswe Mgcoyi has also contributed plenty of goals, with four in the tournament, strikes that have taken Banyana all the way.
But Mkhonza is not fazed by the statistics.
He said: “To be the best, you have to play against the best. I am not worried at all.
“I am done with motivating people. Players know what to do and all they have to do is stick to our game plan.”