Banyana Banyana sharpen sword in Cyprus

Linda Motlhalo. / Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix
Linda Motlhalo. / Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana's prime objective in the Cyprus Women's Cup is obviously to prepare for the World Cup and for SA to better their sixth-place finish of last year in this 12-nation tournament.

Fresh from signing a one-year deal with Chinese Women's Super League outfit Beijing Phoenix, Banyana ace Linda Motlhalo admitted that despite prioritising gauging their readiness for the World Cup being competitive was equally vital.

"We've been there before. We came sixth last year. Now the aim is to go even further than that. If it means we reach the final, let it be," said the vivacious Motlhalo.

"Our primary goal in the tournament is to get ourselves ready for the World Cup, but that does not mean we must not compete. Football is about winning games at the end of it all. You could tell in the friendlies we played against Sweden [0-0] and the [2-1 loss] against Netherlands last month that we are ready for any top opponent."

Drawn in Group A, Banyana face Finland in their opening encounter of this annual competition today (1pm SA time). Banyana will then face Czech Republic on Friday before rounding off their group stages against Korea DPR on Monday.

The Cyprus Cup concludes next Wednesday.

Having tried but failed to qualify for the World Cup with junior national teams Motlhalo, 20, still cannot believe she's finally going to the international showpiece after Banyana secured their spot in the World Cup from June 7 to July 7 in France this year.

"[Going to the World Cup] . it's like someone will wake me up and say 'No, Linda, you are dreaming'. I started with the Under-17 trying to qualify for the World Cup, but it did not happen," Motlhalo reflected on her meteoric rise.

"Again, with the U20 we worked hard but lost to Nigeria, who eventually went to the World Cup. I am happy I've done it with the senior side."

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