Sweden are toughest task yet for Banyana
THE opening ceremony is only on Friday but women's football will get the London Olympics under way tomorrow and Banyana Banyana compete on the opening day of competition.
It is no exaggeration to suggest their match against Sweden at Coventry in Group F is the toughest the women's national team have ever faced.
Their opponents were third at last year's Women's World Cup in Germany and are former winners of the top prize in women's football.
By contrast, South Africa compete in a senior Fifa women's tournament for the first time, having finally beaten their bogey in the qualifying competition.
Banyana Banyana have had millions poured into extensive preparations to make them competitive but there are still genuine fears that the team will be out of their depth, even though coach Joseph Mkhonza insists: "We believe we will be highly competitive against the top women's football nations, and make our country proud."
Unlike the men's tournament, which is played at under-23 level, the eight-team women's competition is at full international level, in effect a mini-World Cup.
Also in Banyana's group are world champions Japan and the strong Canadians. South Africa's second game is against Canada in Coventry on Saturday and they then go to Cardiff to take on Japan on Tuesday.
Their participation in the Games is likely to be over just days into the Olympics. All three teams in South Africa's group are legitimate medal contenders.
Banyana Banyana have the potential, if they can avoid defeat, to be the catalyst for increased development of the women's game.