Home Sport Banyana ready to start Wafcon defence with a bang for their fans

Banyana ready to start Wafcon defence with a bang for their fans

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Banyana were crowned the African queens for the first time in the biennial showpiece that was held in Morocco last year, adding a milestone to the growth of women’s football in the country.

Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Andile Dlamini during training. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

BANYANA Banyana are pumped up and ready to start the defence of their Women’s Africa Cup of Nations crown against Burkina Faso with a bang on Thursday evening.

Banyana were crowned the African queens for the first time in the biennial showpiece that was held in Morocco last year, adding a milestone to the growth of women’s football in the country.

So, as a result of that coronation, and historic finish in the round of 16 at this year’s World Cup in Australasia, the South Africans will be the team to beat in the Wafcon finals next year in Morocco.

But before they can even dream of defending their title at the main event, they have to qualify first by beating Burkina Faso over a two-legged fixture.

Banyana want to ensure they start their qualifying campaign on a high by beating Burkina Faso in the first leg at a neutral Charles Konan Barney Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, on Thursday night (6pm kick-off, SA time).

After all, a win away and clean sheet will augur well for the team amid their intentions for their last game of the year at the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Monday.

“If we win this game, that will give us an upper hand when we go back home. We don’t want (to) put ourselves under pressure when we go home,” goalkeeper Andile Dlamini told the Safa media department.

“We want to play for the fans. It’ll be our last game of the year. We want to make everyone happy. So, it’s key that we don’t underestimate the opponent, but do our best so that we are happy.”

Banyana do not come across as a team that will underestimate Burkina Faso, with coach Desiree Ellis brimming with joy as she has most of her regulars at her disposal and ready to compete.

From the initial squad, only Wendy Shongwe – who was replaced by Ayesha Moose – withdrew, while Jermaine Seoposenwe will only be available for the second leg at home.

“I’m happy with the session. The enthusiasm and willingness to want to win is there – like we always know,” said Ellis after her team’s first training session in Abidjan this week.

“When you travel in Africa, there are challenges, but I think (most of) our players are experienced enough to handle that and adapt really quickly.”

The conditions that greeted the South Africans in Abidjan on Tuesday before their bus trip to Yamoussoukro on Wednesday were all too familiar for Dlamini and her three other teammates at club level.

Dlamini, Karabo Dhlamini, Kholosa Biyana and Lebogang Ramalepe were all part of the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies squad that recently won the Champions League in Korhogo, Ivory Coast.

“This is a country I am familiar with because we played the Champions League here,” said Dlamini, before noting that they’ll have to wear a different cap on Thursday night.

“It’s a different task now. We are playing in the Wafcon qualifiers. So, I think our mentality is on 100%. We want to qualify for Afcon. We are the defending champions.”

Dlamini stressed that they have to be mentally sharp to overcome any adversity, especially the heavy schedules – Sundowns players will have played three competitions in less than a month.

“When you are a football player, you chose to be one because you know that there’ll be challenges – such as playing in the Champions League, Fifa window and domestic competitions,” she said.

But Dlamini doesn’t think Sundowns’ players are the nucleus of the national team.

She credits the guidance of the Banyana coaches and camaraderie among the national team players. “We have incredible coaches that have been managing us very well. That’s incredible for us as players. Recovery and telling your mind to be positive at all times is very important,” she added.

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