Tough ask for Banyana
A REALITY check awaits Banyana Banyana tonight in their Olympic debut.
The South African women's football team, ranked 61st in the world, take on Sweden, who finished third in last year's women's World Cup and are fourth on Fifa's world ranking.
The Swedes have international stars of the calibre of Sofia Jakobsson, who plays professionally in Russia, and Caroline Seger, who will win her 94th cap against Banyana tonight.
The match will be played in Coventry, one of the six football venues for both the women's and men's tournaments at the Games.
South Africa's second match, against seventh-ranked Canada, will be played at the same City of Coventry venue on Saturday night while their final game at the Olympics, on Tuesday, against world No3 Japan, is at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, a ground more familiar with their big brother Springboks.
Banyana are the lowest ranked of all the teams in the women's tournament at the Games and are not expected to make it beyond the first round. Not that Banyana are intimidated.
"We've been having good training camps and the team is coming together," said veteran Banyana striker Portia Modise.
Sweden will present Banyana with a harsh yardstick tonight. The Swedes have qualified for every Olympics and despite a defeat against the US and a draw last week against Britain in a friendly, they are considered potential group winners with Japan.
But they also bring baggage to the Games: they have never won a medal.
Coach Joseph Mkhonza will look to Modise, who has scored 71 goals in 92 appearances for South Africa, and Noko Matlou for goals tonight; to Janine van Wyk to marshal the defence and Amanda Dlamini to run the midfield.
They are his key players and at least they have come into the Games after the best preparation a team could have.
"It's not going to be easy," Modise admitted to a BBC interviewer. "There is too much pressure.
"We're looking forward to doing our best and represent the whole African continent, not only South Africa, and make the whole of Africa proud."
South Africa held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in Rustenburg recently.
Nigeria have been to three Olympics while Africa's third representative, Cameroon, will also be making their debut, like SA.