‘Fifa rankings won’t faze Banyana’s Olympics bid’

By Michael Madyira

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is refusing to read much into Fifa’s rankings ahead of the team’s match against Tanzania in a 2024 Olympic Games qualifier on Friday.

South Africa takes on the Tanzanians at Azam Sports Complex in a second-round, first-leg away game as they push to return to the Olympics.

The African women’s champions are ranked 52 in the world – the Twiga Stars are ranked 146.

“The biggest thing is for us to come out with a positive result,” Ellis told the media.

“But no game is easy, it’s not going to be easy at all. If you look at the men’s Afcon, the rankings don’t mean anything. It’s eleven versus eleven on the pitch.

“If one or two players do not perform, you could have your backs against the wall. So we have to make sure that the players execute the plan that we come up with. If it doesn’t work we come up with another plan.”

It will be Banyana Banyana’s first competitive match of 2024, having last seen action against Burkina Faso in December.

After participating in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the team failed to qualify for the 2020 edition.

Stand-in captain Thembi Kgatlana has emphasised what is at stake in this round of the qualifiers.  

“It is very important to do our best and qualify. There is still another round after this,” Kgatlana said.

“We were disappointed a few years ago to fail to qualify for the Olympics after we went there in 2012 and 2016.

“We are a team embedded in wanting to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, the Olympics and the World Cup. Not qualifying the last time in Tokyo changed the mood in the team.

“We know how important this game means to us. We are looking forward to playing tomorrow and the return leg in South Africa,” Kgatlana said.

After initially being named in the provisional squad, team captain Refiloe Jane did not make it in the final selection as she battles to get back to full fitness.

Pictured above: Banyana Banyana veteran defender Noko Matlou leads her teammates at training in Tanzania.

Image source: Banyana Banyana

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