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Banyana reign supreme in international friendlies


Banyana Banyana beat neighbours Zambia and Botswana to seal a perfect record in their international friendlies during the Fifa break.

Banyana’s Thembi Kgatlana celebrates after scoring during their friendly international against Botswana at Bidvest Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana reminded their counterparts why they’ve been crowned “the Queens of Southern Africa” for the past four years. They beat neighbours Zambia and Botswana to seal a perfect record in their international friendlies during the Fifa break.

On Saturday, they defeated Zambia 3-1 at Bidvest Stadium, before returning to the same venue yesterday afternoon to beat Botswana 2-0 – thanks to second half goals from Spanish-based strike Thembi Kgatlana and Gabriela Salgado.

The South Africans, who’ll miss the Olympic Games in July for the first time since their maiden qualification nine years ago, are using these friendlies as part of their preparations for the Cosafa Championships and Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Coach Desiree Ellis made four changes to the team that started against the Olympic-bound Zambia here, Kaylin Swart, Tiisetso Makhubela, Koketso Tlailane and Noxolo Cesane starting ahead of Andile Dlamini, Bongeka Gamede, Sibulele Holweni and Kgaelebane Mohlakoana.

With the home advantage, and high on confidence, Banyana pressed the visitors from the outset, proving to be comfortable on the ball as well. But scoring opportunities were few and far between in the opening stages as Botswana kept a steady wall in defence.

But after the water break, the South Africans came close to breaking the deadlock. Golden girl Kgatlana sent a delightful cross in front of goal, forcing goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija to parry the ball back into play but Robyn Moodlay blasted the rebound to the stands.

Soon thereafter, the ever-green Salgado forced Bosija to tip her close-range effort into the stands after it took a huge deflection on its way towards goal – as Banyana piled on the pressure for the breakthrough with 10 minutes before the interval.

Salgado, though, was gaining momentum with the progression of the match. She came close to picking out Bosija with a curling effort from the edge of the box, but the Botswanan No. 1 sensed the danger and cleared the effort away for a corner-kick.

Despite exerting most of the pressure, given that Salgado had also put a pin-point shot on top of the crossbar, Banyana went the break with nothing to show for their efforts – with the Botswanas holding on with the skin of their teeth.

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However, the South Africans wouldn’t be denied their opener early in the second half. After rattling a close-range effort against Bosija, Kgatlana wouldn’t repeat the same mistake twice, slotting past the former after being picked out with a through ball from the engine room.

From thereon, the floodgates started to open for the South Africans as Salgado added her team’s second. The winger skinned her marker down the by-line, before sneaking the ball home with a low shot between the legs of Bosija from an acute angle.

From two, it could have been three in a flash. But Kgatlana’s attempted shot at goal, after cutting inside to position herself opposite the goalmouth, sailed inches wide off the target. That was before she forced Bosija into a diving stop.