Jane believes that if they apply themselves correctly anything is possible.
Refiloe Jane, the Banyana Banyana vice-captain, reckons that despite wearing the underdogs cap in their maiden Fifa Women’s Cup, they are more than capable of reaching the knockout stage.
The South Africans (49th) are in Group B at the global showpiece alongside tournament’s favourites Germany, Spain and China, who are ranked second, 13th and 16th in the world respectively. As inferior as the Banyana will be in their group but the mere fact that they have recently achieved the improbable, by qualifying for the global showpiece, after almost a 13-year-wait, allows them to dare to dream, right?
Speaking at the team’s send-off that was organised fuel giants and their sponsors Sasol at their headquarters yesterday, Jane believes that if they apply themselves correctly anything is possible.
“Everyone says we’ve got the ability to progress out of the group stage, and we also (as a team) believe that we’ve got what it takes,” she said. “That’s our first target because we know that in football once you make the knockout stage anything is possible.”
Despite the confidence by Jane that they can make the last-16, but it remains a concern that they are winless in eight matches this year. After all, the South Africans can only grow in confidence, once they start beating the preparations opponents, right? But that hasn’t been the case so far for coach Desiree Ellis’ troops – losing five matches, while drawing three. However, they head to the global showpiece a bit matured considering that have seven players plying their trade abroad – Jane, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Nothando Vilakazi, Ode Fulutudilu, Leandra Smeda, Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo.
“We’ve got quite a number of players playing overseas, and with them coming with the experience, we’ll be able to help the young players,” Jane admitted. “The experience will also be invaluable in terms of the tactics and techniques.”
In Ellis’ plans of “blending the youth with the experienced”, Under-17 graduates Sibulele Holweni and Karabo Dhlamini made the cut in the 23-woman final squad that will be SA’s flag bearers in France from June 7 – July 7. Dhlamini and Holweni will be seeking for mentorship from the likes of Jane, Vilakazi, captain Janine Van Wyk, Noko Matlou, who are already on above 100 caps for the national team.
Jane, in particular, has been a pillar of strength for Banyana – inspiring the team 2017 Cosafa tournament and 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualifiers success, where they finished second to book their spot to the World Cup.
“I am very happy with the (physical) state that I am in,” the former Tshwane University of Technology midfielder admitted. “With the team also, we’ve just recently assembled in camp and there’s also work that needs to be done. But by the time, the tournament starts everyone will be ready.”
The South Africans flew out of the country to begin their preparations in France yesterday. They’ll play their last friendly against Norway on June 2, while six days later, they’ll open their account at the global showpiece against Spain at Stade Oceane.