The Confederation of African Football’s 2012 African Women’s Championship, which kicks off with Banyana Banyana taking on tournament hosts Equatorial Guinea in Malabo on Sunday, will, for South Africa, be about taking their results just one step further than before.
Nigeria have dominated the tournament since its inception, winning eight of the nine African Women’s Championship previously held. South Africa’s opponents on Sunday, Equatorial Guinea, are the only other country to have been crowned continental champions, which they achieved in 2008 with a 2-1 defeat of South Africa.
Runner-up is a position that Banyana Banyana have finished in three times previously. Besides 2008, they ended second in 2004 and 2000, so if the pattern holds they should make the final again. The aim this time would be to take it one step forward and become champions of Africa.
Olympic Games lessons
Competing in the Olympic Games earlier this year certainly boosted the Sasol-sponsored team, which learnt a lot from their group games against 2011 World Cup winners Japan, and Sweden and Canada, who were at the time ranked fourth and seventh in the world.
It was also encouraging that Banyana drew with Nigeria home and away in the lead-up to the London Olympics, with the teams ending 1-1 in Rustenburg and goalless in Lagos.
Now they will try to take the lessons learnt and confidence gained from those games and put them to title-winning use.
The South African team flew to Equatorial Guinea on Thursday from Cameroon, where they had held held a camp to get used to the conditions they can expect in the African Women’s Championship.
During their camp, they played to a 1-1 draw with Cameroon, who along with Banyana Banyana were Africa’s only representatives at the London Olympics.
Unfortunately, midfielder Yola Jafta was a late scratch from the squad after a medical consultation revealed a hamstring injury she had picked up would not mend in time for the tournament.