Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo boost for Banyana

Thembi Kgatlana to lace up against Japan on Sunday. /Elsa/Getty Images
Thembi Kgatlana to lace up against Japan on Sunday. /Elsa/Getty Images

The return of Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo comes as a huge boost for Banyana Banyana as they entertain one of the world's powerhouses, Japan, in Fukuoka on Sunday (5.45am SA time).

Kgatlana and Motlhalo, who both play for Beijing Phoenix FC in the Chinese Women's Super League, missed Banyana's last outing, an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympics. They crashed out at the hands of Botswana in the second round of qualifiers in August.

The first leg ended goalless in Gaborone and Botswana salvaged a 3-2 penalty shootout victory after the match had finished 0-0 again in the reverse fixture at Orlando Stadium.

Even Banyana coach Desiree Ellis couldn't help but to be chuffed at the availability of Kgatlana and Motlhalo, who missed out on the previous two camps due to an injury and club commitments respectively.

"Linda and Thembi are very important to us. It's a huge advantage to have them back for the Japan game," noted Ellis.

"They come with experience and hunger, so we are hoping they live up to the expectations they carry going into this big game."

Notwithstanding the value and credentials Kgatlana and Motlhalo add to the team with their agility and flair, Japan, who are ranked 10th by Fifa, are in a strong position to claim a win against an off-form SA.

Ranked 55th in the world, Ellis's troops have gone 15 matches without success, with 11 defeats and four draws in the process.

SA last won a game when they outshone Mali 2-0 at the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Ghana in November last year.

The international friendly away to Japan will be broadcast on SABC1 later on Sunday, at 3pm.

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