WC Countdown: Group B – South Africa

We are now onto the fourth and last team in group B, South Africa.

This will be the first year playing in the World Cup for the Banyana Banyana (which translates to ‘the girls’), they are only the sixth team from the African continent to qualify for the tournament, and it will be very exciting to see what they can do. South Africa played very well all through the qualification stage and was really unlucky not to win the Africa Cup of Nations, where they narrowly lost out to Nigeria on penalties in the final, a team that they had beaten 1-0 in the group stage of the Cup of Nations. That didn’t matter as they had already secured qualification to the tournament in France, but they are no strangers to losing out on the gold medal in the Cup of Nations, seeing as they’ve finished as runners up no less than five times since 1995.

The Banyana Banyana team are not short of hardworking stars in the team. The captain Janine van Wyk has shown up for the team in a record-breaking 161 appearances, having broken the caps record for an African woman with her 150th international appearance playing against Malawi at the COASA Women’s Championship in 2018, and is also the most capped South African player of either gender, with midfielder Mpumi Nyandeni and striker-turned-defender Noko Matlou now set to get their 150th caps for the team. The vice-captain Refiloe Jane looks like she will get her 100th cap when South Africa head to the Cyprus Cup next week, and young talent Thembi Kgatlana, the reigning African Women’s player of the year who scored five goals in her five appearances at the Cup of Nations, is only three games away from her 50th cap for the team, despite only being 23 years old.

Janine van Wyk and Thembi Kgatlana celebrates
Janine van Wyk and Thembi Kgatlana celebrates, made by The Matchday Lookbook

Banyana Banyana’s coach, Desiree Ellis, is somewhat of a big deal in women’s football, especially in South Africa where she could be considered a trailblazer. Ellis was first appointed as the caretaker coach of the team back in October 2016, before she took the job on a permanent basis in February 2018, and she’s been off to a great start, leading the team to their first women’s world cup final ever. She also holds the record as the first African player, of either gender, to have won the COSAFA Women’s Cup as a player (in 2002) as well as a coach (in 2017). Ellis likes to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, playing her captain in a centre back role and giving her attacker support through the wings as well as from the middle.

South Africa will participate in Cyprus Cup, that begins on the 27th of February, and they have been drawn in group B together with Finland, Czech Republic and Korea DPR. They also have a friendly booked against USA on the 12th of May, before the tournament kicks off in France.

That’s a bit of information on South Africa, and this wraps up the second group at the World Cup. How do you think South Africa will do against the likes of Germany, China and Spain in the group? Let us know in the comment section below!

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