Banyana Banyana narrowly go down to the Netherlands in Cape Town
Banyana Banyana had a taste of what to expect at the Fifa Women’s World Cup when they lost 2-1 to European champions the Netherlands in an entertaining clash at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
The fixture was played in honour of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and saw African Women’s Player of the Year Thembi Kgatlana net for South Africa after Sherida Spitse and Vivianne Miedema had made the most of a bright start from the visitors.
Banyana were poor in the opening 20 minutes but improved as the game went on and given the balance of play probably deserved a draw against the side ranked seventh in the world and packed with star quality.
It was an excellent test of what the side will face at the World Cup in France from June 7-July 7, and once they got over their initial nerves in front of a crowd of some 16,000, there was plenty to suggest they will be competitive at the global showpiece event.
Banyana coach Desiree Ellis stuck with her tried and trusted combination as Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo and Refiloe Jane all started, with the Jermaine Seoposenwe leading the line.
They fell behind inside three minutes after a timid beginning when Spitse picked up the ball on the edge of the box and lofted a shot over a stranded Kaylin Swart and in off the underside of the crossbar.
After a quiet opening, Banyana burst into life with some excellent interplay down the right-hand side between Nothando Vilakazi and the ever-classy Motlhalo that resulted in the former delivering a ball that just eluded Seoposenwe in the box.
The Dutch side’s slick passing game was proving too much for the hosts though and it was 2-0 before the 20-minute mark as Arsenal forward Miedema stroked the ball into the bottom corner with Swart again helpless.
But South Africa gradually grew into the game after a nervous start and were able to profit from a Netherlands mistake when a poor back-pass put the deadly Kgatlana through on goal and she used her pace to out-run the defence and round goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal to score.
Miedema saw her shot blocked for a corner five minutes before the interval, while Spitse’s effort from the edge of the box was deflected over the bar.
Spitse came even closer to a brace when she danced into the box and thundered a shot against the woodwork.
Swart had to be smart to make a save from Jill Roord’s snap-shot from the edge of the box early in the second period, and shortly afterwards captain Janine van Wyk was replaced by another veteran, Noko Matlou.
Kgatlana showed her pace again with a rampaging run down the right-hand side and when her cross was beaten away by Van Veenendaal, Leandra Smeda’s follow-up effort was blocked for a corner.
Seoposenwe showed her trickery on the left to work her way into a shooting position, albeit from a tight angle, and her effort was spilled by Van Veenendaal without a Banyana player there to turn the ball home in the six-yard box.
She should have done better though when a perfectly-timed run saw her beat the offside trap and with just Van Veenendaal to beat, her shot was far too tame and easy for the goalkeeper.
By now most the chances were falling to Banyana and they might have levelled when substitute Karabo Dhlamini did well to work an opportunity for Kgatlana, but she skewed her shot wide from a good position.
With an eye on Tuesday’s Albertina Sisulu Challenge clash against Sweden at the same venue, Ellis replace Kgatlana and Motlhalo with around 20 minutes to go and that took the sting out of the home attack.