South Africa's nemesis in the Olympic qualifiers have long been Nigeria, with the Super Falcons preventing Banyana Banyana from going all the way in both 2004 and 2008. In the former, South Africa lost all four matches in a three-team group against Nigeria and Ghana – Ethiopia who had qualified for the final round withdrew. Four years later, South Africa again faced Nigeria in the final round and after drawing the first leg on home soil 2-2, then travelled to Abuja, where they suffered a 1-0 loss. This time around, they avoided both Ghana and Nigeria as Africa, for the first time, was allocated two qualifying berths.
Banyana Banyana will be as prepared for the Olympic Women's Football Tournament London 2012 as any other team competing. The South African Football Association technical director of women's football, Fran Hilton-Smith, said that the national association had made the London Olympics a top priority. "The team spent several weeks in a training camp in Brazil and then participated in the Cyprus Cup." Although the team finished ninth out of 12 teams in that event and lost to Korea Republic and Scotland, they managed to beat Northern Ireland and drew with New Zealand. They also have a number of friendlies lined up before competing in London.
"We want to promote South Africa women football," said Banyana Banyana head coach Joseph Mkhonza. "It is our first time in the competition and we will do our best to make a difference. We want South African women's football to be taken seriously. Technically and tactically, South Africa is ok. With good training and motivation the team will gel and go places."
Facts and figures
Desiree Ellis (midfield), Portia Modise (forward), Veronica Phewa (forward) and Joanne Solomon (forward)
Amanda Dlamini (midfielder), Noko Matlou (forward), Mpumi Nyandeni (attacking midfielder) and Janine van Wyk (defender)
South Africa enjoyed an easy ride in the first round of the qualifying tournament, beating Zambia twice for a 5-1 aggregate victory. They then needed a penalty shoot-out to see off Tunisia in the next round before meeting Ethiopia in the final round, advancing to London 4-1 on aggregate.
The numbers game
6: The number of games Banyana Banyana had to play to qualify for their first-ever Olympic tournament.
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