Banyana will have to be at their best against China if they want to keep their World Cup dreams alive
Having come short in leading her compatriots to the Fifa Women’s World Cup before, Banyana Banyana captain Janine Van Wyk admits she was overwhelmed when Nkosi Sikelela was in full swing at Stade Oceane in Le Havre on Saturday.
Considering that Van Wyk is the most capped South African footballer, both male and female, with over 150 senior national team appearances, then it would be befitting to say that she’s done it all.
Van Wyk has been to numerous Africa Women’s Cup of Nations tournaments, while she played a key role in the team qualify for back-to-back Olympics Games in 2012 and 2016.
However, missing from her stellar career was an appearance at the World Cup.
That came into realisation in France on Saturday as Banyana made their first appearance at the global showpiece against Spain.
“It was a good feeling because I honestly thought that I’d be more emotional than I was,” said a proud Van Wyk despite Banyana going down 3-1 on the night.
“I think I was focused on what I needed to do in the game more than my surroundings and the atmosphere. I didn’t have much time to think about it and obviously when I sang the national anthem it was like ‘we are here and this is our moment’.
“It was a fantastic moment, one that I’ll cherish for the rest of my career. It’s something that cannot be taken away from us.”
Rewind back to the 12th edition of the Awcon in 2014 in Namibia, the South Africans were within touching distance of booking their ticket to the global showpiece as they made the third/fourth place play-off. However, Ivory Coast broke Banyana’s hearts with a 1-0 win as they finished third and qualified for the World Cup in Canada.
To add to the misery, the South Africans already had T-Shirts printed with the phrase: “Canada Here Come”.
“You go through failures in order to succeed in life,” Van Wyk stated. “If you don’t go through those challenges and obstacles, then success will never taste as sweet when you eventually get there. There are still moments when I think about 2014 (Awcon), and how difficult it was to get over those.
“But actually seeing yourself qualifying for the World Cup later and participating in it, makes everything disappear.”
After that defeat to Spain on Saturday, the South Africans may be down but they are not out. Rooted bottom of Group B, coach Desiree Ellis’ troops will need a perfect response when they meet China in Paris on Thursday.
However, considering that the Asians are still licking their own wounds following a 1-0 loss to Germany in their own opener, Van Wyk is adamant that they should be at their best on the day.
“The China match is a do-or-die for us. We have a very important task against China. Obviously against Spain we had them in the first half and in the other half things got very tough.
“With China losing their opening game against Germany, I think they are going to give us a tough battle,” Van Wyk concluded.