Banyana in tough Group - Japan top list of Olympic rivals
SOUTH Africa's only football team heading for the London Olympics, Banyana Banyana, were drawn yesterday to face world champions Japan and semifinalists Sweden in Group F.
Banyana are the lowest ranked women's team (65th) in the 12-team tournament and are in a group that is already being billed as the toughest of the draw.
Canada, who are placed seventh by Fifa, complete South Africa's daunting fixture list for the London Games, which kick off on July 25. Following their 2011 Women's World Cup triumph in Germany, Japan have climbed to third spot on the rankings, while semifinalists Sweden are fifth.
Being in the "group of death" did little to throw off Banyana skipper Amanda Dlamini, who took to social network Twitter before and after the draw yesterday.
She tweeted: "Very competitive group. I'm so nervous and excited and it's as if I'm playing tomorrow.
"We're going to live the dream we made a possibility."
The women's tournament is for full national teams. Japan are the gold medal favourites after winning the World Cup, where they beat the US in the final in Frankfurt last July.
Sweden were third at the last World Cup and won bronze at Athens in 2004. Canada finished behind the Americans at the recent CONCACAF qualifying tournament and in captain Christine Sinclair they have one of the top strikers in world football.
Japan's captain Homare Sawa was named Women's World Footballer of the Year last December while Sweden striker Lotta Schelin has scored 42 international goals in close to 100 caps .
Banyana will meet Sweden in their opening game on July 25 in Coventry. It is the day before the Olympics officially open and means the SA team will not be part of the opening ceremony in London.
vs Sweden (July 25)
vs Canada (July 28)
vs Japan (July 31)