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World champions Spain lie in wait if Banyana Banyana make it to Paris Olympics

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Banyana Banyana’s Olympics qualification fate hangs in the balance since they must still play the final round of qualifying against arch-rivals Nigeria’s Super Falcons.

South Africa coach Desiree Ellis. File Picture: REUTERS, Carl Recine

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is set to name her final 23-player squad to face Nigeria next week. Photo: BackpagePix

South Africa’s Banyana Banyana face the daunting prospect of playing in a group of three top-10 countries if they qualify for this year’s Paris Olympics women’s football competition in France from July 24 to August 10.

Banyana Banyana’s qualification fate hangs in the balance since they must still play the final round of qualifying against arch-rivals Nigeria’s Super Falcons. The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana play the first leg in Nigeria on Friday, April 5, in Abuja.

The reverse tie will be on Tuesday, April 9, at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. The draw for football at the 2024 Paris Olympics was announced at the Le Pulse Building in Saint-Denis, Paris, on Wednesday.

The two qualifying African teams have been placed in tough groups. Zambia and Morocco will lock horns for the second women’s Olympic slot reserved for Africa.

The aggregate winner of the qualifier between South Africa and Nigeria will play in Group C alongside reigning World Cup champions Spain (world No.1), Japan (7) and Brazil (10).

Banyana Banyana will start their training camp next Monday, with local-based players only. SA coach Desiree Ellis has announced a preliminary 30-member squad for the camp. The final 23-player group for the Olympic qualifier will be finalised by Ellis next week.

According to competition rules, countries will only be able to select 18 players per team for the final tournament, and there are no age restrictions in the women’s section.

Meanwhile, tickets for the crucial clash between Banyana Banyana and Nigeria at Loftus in Pretoria on April 9 (7.30pm kick-off) have gone on sale at all TicketPro outlets, as well as at Spar. The tickets will also be available at the stadium, and are going for R50 for adults and R20 for children.

Safa urged fans to come out in their numbers to support the senior women’s national football team. There will be lots of prizes to be won on the day, including meeting your favourite Banyana Banyana players.

“Put on your yellow national team regalia. We want Loftus to be buzzing on the day,” said Safa CEO Lydia Monyepao.

Olympic Women’s Football Draw

Group A: France, Colombia, Canada, New Zealand

Group B: USA, CAF Qualifier (Zambia or Morocco), Germany, Australia

Group C: Spain, Japan, CAF Qualifier (South Africa or Nigeria), Brazil

Herman Gibbs

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