‘Qualifying for Olympics will be Banyana’s biggest achievement’

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says qualifying for the 2024 Olympics will be one of the biggest achievements for the reigning African champions.

South Africa will be locking horns with Tanzania in the first leg of the third-round Olympic qualifier encounter at the Azam Complex Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Friday. Kick-off is at 3pm.

The second leg between the two sides will be played at the Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday next week. The match will start at 7.30pm.

It will be a must-win clash for Banyana to set foot in the upcoming Olympics in France, having failed to qualify at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Ellis, who guided Banyana to their historic maiden Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) crown, said it will be crucial for her side to be on top of their game against the Tanzanians.

We have to be on top of our game

“The players know that when you are achieving, you always want to do more,” Ellis said during the squad announcement at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

“A lot of the players don’t want to rest on their laurels. They want to go a step better, and that’s what it’s all about.

“When you are at the top, there are always teams that, when you play against them, it becomes their final.

“So, we’ve got to be at our absolute best. When you’ve won one trophy, you don’t rest on your laurels, you always want to do more, and this is the same with this team.

“They want to do more, they want to win more, and I think going to the Olympics will be the biggest achievement outside of all the others, not having gone in 2020.”

Meanwhile, one of the surprise inclusions in Ellis’ 23-member squad is Pretoria University Ladies midfielder Thalea Smidt, who has returned to the Banyana set-up since the 2022 Wafcon.

Banyana final squad:

Goalkeepers: Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Kaylin Swart (JVW FC), Katlego Moletsane (Royal AM)

Defenders: Karabo Dhlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Noko Matlou (SB Eibar), Fikile Magama (UWC), Asanda Hadebe (Sunflower FC), Lonathemba Mhlongo (UWC), Lebohang Ramalepe (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies)

Midfielders: Kholosa Biyana (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Linda Motlhalo (Racing Louisville), Nomvula Kgoale (TS Galaxy), Sphumelele Shamase (UJ), Amogelang Motau (UWC), Thalea Smidt (Tuks Ladies), Lesego Nkoane (TS Galaxy)

Forwards: Nicole Michael (TS Galaxy), Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC), Noxolo Cesane (UWC), Nthabiseng Majiya (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Jermaine Seoposenwe (Monterrey), Hildah Magaia (Mazatlan FC), Thembi Kgatlana (Tigres UANL).

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