Tough times ahead for Banyana
IF Banyana Banyana think their 4-1 defeat to Sweden in their London Olympics opening match on Wednesday was a tough encounter, then they should brace themselves for worse in their next two group fixtures.
Banyana face Canada on Saturday before finishing off their Group F matches with an encounter with world champions Japan next Tuesday.
The SA side may have put up a plucky fight in the second half of their loss to Sweden after they trailed 3-0 just 20 minutes into the game, but in reality the Swedes did not play to their full potential on Wednesday night.
And Banyana cannot expect any favours from the seventh- ranked Canadians, who are still licking their wounds from the 2-1 defeat to Japan in the first Group F match.
Sweden had a few close goal-scoring opportunities from early on in the match which could have embarrassed Banyana, but the Scandinavians were denied by the woodwork. The Swedes seemed rather flat-footed for most parts of the match and could not have had secured such an emphatic victory had they played against a better seeded side than the 61st-ranked Banyana.
There will be some positives for the side to take from their improved showing in the second half, and the jaw-dropping long-range effort by the experienced Portia Modise, which gave Banyana some hope in the early stages of the second half.
Modise successfully executed a 45m lobby that beat the Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl for Banyana’s first ever Olympic goal.
“I saw early in the game that the goalkeeper’s weakness was always coming off her line,” Modise explained her goal. “So I took a shot and it came off.”
The nervous jitters of their Olympic debut may be settled by the time the Canada clash arrives, but coach Joseph Mkhonza will have plenty of work to do ahead Banyana’s next game.
Banyana missed two vital scoring opportunities in the first half by Modise, who narrowly missed the far post while striker Noko Matlou could not connect with a cross from the left wing — goals which would have given the scoreline a respectable look.
The defence left much to be desired with schoolgirl errors allowing the Swedes to score the four goals.
However, Banyana, who are by far the least ranked side at the Games can be proud of the strides they have made in becoming the first SA women’s team to qualify for the Olympics.