Banyana touch down in Sydney ahead of Netherlands showdown

Banyana Banyana landed in Sydney, Australia on Thursday afternoon ahead of their FIFA Women’s World Cup Last 16 encounter against the Netherlands at the Allianz stadium (Kickoff 04:00am CAT) on Sunday (6 August ).

South African Football Association (SAFA) CEO Lydia Monyepao was at Sydney International Airport to welcome the African champions and she was accompanied by Acting High Commissioner Leonard Khoza and First Secretary Political and Economic Lebogang Mokwena.

Coach Desiree Ellis’ Sasol-sponsored charges made history after they became the first ever South African team, men or women, to make it out of the group stages of a FIFA World Cup following their 3-2 win over Italy in the final group stage match at the Wellington Regional Stadium in New Zealand on Wednesday.

Hildah Magaia walked away with the player of the match award, becoming the second South African playerto get the accolade at the tournament after Thembi Kgatlana won the same honour in the game against Argentina a few days ago.

“All I can say is that it’s all God’s glory for me. I just want to thank the Almighty for all he has done for me, the talent he has given me and I also want to thank the coaches for the opportunity and the trust they have in me. They call me the breadwinner and without the breadwinner there is no bread, and I had to provide the bread for the nation,” said Magaia on her player of the match award.

An emotional Ellis spoke highly of her players’ fighting spirit after the game, saying that not many had given Banyana Banyana a chance as they headed into this encounter, but they rose above it all to make a historic mark.

“I think there was a time on the line when we had five coaches, including the captain, giving direction because it was that tough of a game. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we also knew what we were capable of and we trained a couple of days on what we would do if we went behind, because we have never come from behind. These girls are just amazing,” said the coach.

“I speak through every challenge that they faced in the past looking at WAFCON as well. No one gave us a chance,  but we knew what we were capable of and they fought like warriors out there. We said we needed to keep our best players on the pitch and we managed that by not pressing all the time,” shared Ellis.

“This is for everyone back home, people getting up in the early hours of the morning, and when they were all disappointed when we should have won against Argentina. This is for everyone, and I said I wanted them to go to work smiling [as the game played at 09:00am] back home. This is for all the coaches in the league who have played their parts, this is for the coaches who came before me and everybody involved in women’s football,” she concluded.

A SAFA delegation, comprising of President Dr Danny Jordaan, SAFA CEO Monyepao, 2027 Bid Committee chair Tumi Dlamini, Bid Lead Russell Paul and SAFA Women’s Head Romaney Pinnock, are also in Sydney to impress upon FIFA as to why it is important for South Africa to be awarded the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The SAFA CEO was delegated by Dr Jordaan to momentarily leave the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup Bid Information Workshop to welcome Banyana Banyana while the rest of the delegation remained behind to continue their work.

Sasol Senior Manager for Group Brand and Sponsorships Nozipho Mbatha congratulated Banyana Banyana for their outstanding performance and achievement.

“It was clear from how the team played that they had only one thing in mind, and that was to score maximum goals and secure a spot in the top 16. The team was faced with what was thought to be impossible, but their determination is what set them apart from their competitors. Sasol is proud to be associated with such a focused team during times that matter most and happy to be the number one supporter of the team,” said Mbatha.

The team will have their first official training session in Sydney on Friday as Ellis fine-tunes the squad forthe challenge against the Netherlands on Sunday.

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