Banyana Banyana aim to bring down high-flying Dutch and maintain fairytale World Cup run

Banyana Banyana aim to bring down high-flying Dutch and maintain fairytale World Cup run
Mapula Kgoale (right) and Bambanani Mbane celebrate after Banyana Banyana's World Cup win against Italy in Wellington, New Zealand, on 2 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ritchie B Tongo)

South Africa face a formidable foe in the form of the Netherlands in their World Cup round of 16 fixture. Nevertheless, the African champions believe they can spring another surprise.

In the aftermath of edging Italy to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time in history – in just their second Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance – the mood in the Banyana Banyana camp is currently one of excitement and pride.  

Nevertheless, the team now has to refocus and recalibrate. In their maiden round of 16 encounter, the reigning African champions face an extremely tough task against another side ranked much higher than them – the Netherlands.

In addition to boasting staggering quality – the 2019 World Cup silver medallists finished at the summit of their group. A group consisting of four-time world champions, the USA, no less.

So, to say Banyana Banyana will be in for a testing tussle during the Sunday clash (which is set for kick-off at 4am SA time) would be an understatement.

If they display the tenacity and grit they showed against the Italians they may yet surprise the high-flying Dutchwomen. With the Netherlands sitting joint second on the list of the tournament’s top-scorers’ chart to date, South Africa will be in for a mammoth match in Sydney.

Add to that the fact that the Dutch thumped Banyana Banyana 5-1 in early 2022, as the latter prepared for the Women’s African Cup of Nations (Wafcon), and Banyana’s prospects look even more bleak.

Nonetheless, as there was belief from the team that they would make it into the round of 16 — in spite of being thrown in a group with nations ranked comfortably above them — Banyana believe in their abilities against the Dutch.    

“We’ve played the Netherlands a few times. Even last year before we went to Wafcon. They are a fantastic side,” said South Africa’s coach Desiree Ellis.

“It’s gonna be a tough match. They have played really well on their side. But now it’s a knockout match. It’s all to play for. There’s no second chance. There’s no tomorrow. It’s [about who wants it more] on the day,” Ellis added.

“This team has shown that they have resilience. They’ve shown that they can be brave. They’ve shown that nothing can stop them if they put their mind to it. They play for each other.”

South Africa has scored in each of its three World Cup matches in 2023. That is largely due to the attacking trio of Thembi Kgatlana, Hildah Magaia and Jermaine Seoposenwe.

Playmaker Linda Motlhalo has also been pivotal. However, the Dutch have their own threats which will keep Banyana busy.  

Dutch threats

Banyana Banyana’s fragile defence — which has failed to keep a clean sheet throughout the ongoing quadrennial showpiece — will have to contend with some wily Dutch mavericks.

One of those is Jill Roord, the star player of the Oranje in the absence of injured Vivianne Miedema.

Jill Roord

Jill Roord of the Netherlands on 1 August, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo: Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Roord, who is the daughter of former professional footballer René Roord, has eye-catching technique. She is two-footed and can pass the ball like no other. Her strike rate is also impressive for a midfield playmaker. From three World Cup games, she already has three goals.

Then there is Esmee Brugts, the latest starlet of Dutch soccer. The 20-year-old winger, who can dribble circles around her opponents, will be a handful for South Africa’s backline. Brugts played in boys’ teams for FC Binnenmaas, near Rotterdam, for as long as she could, before finally signing for Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.

Esmee Brugts

Esmee Brugts (left) of the Netherlands and Thi ThuThao Tran of Vietnam during their World Cup match at the Dunedin Stadium on 1 August, 2023 in Dunedin New Zealand. (Photo: Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images)

One of the Dutch threats from set pieces, a component which Banyana Banyana have struggled with to date, will be striker Katja Snoeijs.

Katja Snoeijs

Katja Snoeijs of the Netherlands at Dunedin Stadium on 1 August, 2023 in Dunedin New Zealand. (Photo: Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images)

While based in the Netherlands she scored almost one goal in every league match. When she moved to France to play for Bordeaux she also showed that she is made of the right stuff, with a fine average of around one goal every two games.

She has adapted to playing as a sole striker at English club Everton, where she is often isolated. This has made her game much more rounded.

To spring another surprise and maintain their fairytale run in New Zealand and Australia, South Africa will have to clamp down this trio. Though, that still won’t guarantee them victory against a quality-stacked side. DM

The match is 4am (SA time) on Sunday and will be played at the Sydney Stadium.


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