South African Women's Team And Sweden To Kick Off Olympic Football
The South African women’s team, Banyana Banyana, will have the honour of participating in the first event at the 2016 Summer Olympics when they tackle Sweden on Wednesday evening.
Banyana and the Swedes will face off at Estádio Olímpico João Havelange in Rio de Janeiro for a Group A clash, with kick-off at 18h00 CAT.
South Africa secured their place at the Olympics (for the second successive time) by coming through three qualifying rounds in the CAF preliminaries. They overcame Gabon, Kenya and Equatorial Guinea to secure a place at the Games.
Vera Pauw’s side will be looking for an improved showing compared to their 2012 debut, when they finished bottom of their group in London after losses to Sweden and Candada, as well as a goalless draw with Japan.
Just as four years ago, Banyana open their campaign with a clash against the Swedes, who are making their sixth appearance at the Olympics and joined France and Germany as the three European qualifiers.
It is crucial that South Africa do not suffer a repeat of their 4-1 loss to Sweden in Coventry, but Banyana captain Janine Van Wyk believes they are far better prepared this time around.
We have been meeting these girls [the Sweden team] up and down the elevator, and thinking that those are the opponents we will be facing,” Van Wyk told SAFA Media.
“We also were thinking that in 2012 in London it was our opening match against them and the result was not what we expected, makes it a game that is unforgettable.
“When people ask me today who was the toughest opponent we have ever faced, it would be Sweden who beat us 4-1 in 2012 and we were not well prepared.
“This time around we are looking forward to the match and going for it as best as we can, with the team high on confidence in ourselves as a group.
“I think we are really capable of getting a good result if we just stick together and work on the aspects we have been working on for the past eight months.
“This game will give us a lot of confidence going forward if we get a good result - so we are really looking forward to as it means a lot to us, probably one of the most important matches of the tournament to get a good start for ourselves.”
The other Group A match sees hosts Brazil tackle China at the same venue an hour after the Banyana game finishes.