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Nigeria trip up Banyana Banyana to reach Olympics for the first time since 2008

Nigeria trip up Banyana Banyana to reach Olympics for the first time since 2008
Nomi Kgoale of South Africa (left) and Deborah Abiodun of Nigeria during the CAF Women’s Olympic qualifier at Loftus Versfeld on 9 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Banyana Banyana will miss their second consecutive Olympics after failing to defeat Nigeria at home on Tuesday night.

Nigeria’s experience and big-match temperament shone through as they held Banyana Banyana to a 0-0 draw at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. That result, coupled with the West African nation’s 1-0 win in the first leg last week on Friday, ensured that they qualified for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

nigeria banyana olympic games

Jubilant Nigerian players celebrate their win on aggregate at the CAF Women’s Olympic qualifier against South Africa at Loftus Versfeld. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

The Super Falcons were victorious on home soil during the fourth and final phase of Olympic qualifying for African women’s soccer teams, though by a slim one-goal margin. This had Banyana Banyana believing they could overturn the deficit on home soil.

“The fact that they didn’t cut the grass and they know that we’re a team that moves the ball,” explained South Africa’s lethal striker Thembi Kgatlana after they had been vanquished in the first leg of the qualifier.

“When we get home with better facilities, we know that the pitch will favour us, the same way the pitch favoured them.”

nigeria banyana olympic games

Lebohang Ramalepe of South Africa with the ball during the CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifier match against Nigeria at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 9 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Nigeria tore up this script as they frustrated Kgatlana and her teammates. They remained compact and disciplined to ensure that their goal was not threatened. They were successful in this, too as the first half concluded without a Banyana shot on target.

The South Africans – who had beaten Nigeria two games on the trot before the defeat in Abuja a few days ago – came out galvanised in the second stanza.

However, even then they hardly offered anything that had the Super Falcons shaking in fear. Despite some inspired and intricate build-up play at times, there was just no end product from the reigning African champions.

As a consequence, their fairytale two-year run was rudely halted. After winning the 2022 Wafcon, they became the first senior South African soccer side to qualify for the knockouts of a World Cup.

nigeria banyana olympic games

Dejected South Africans. Nigeria wins on aggregate at the CAF Women’s Olympic qualifier at Loftus Versfeld. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi /Gallo Images)

They had hoped to add Olympic qualification to their list of recent milestones. They failed in this endeavour. It is the second consecutive Games that they will miss. They fell short in Tokyo 2020 as well. This was after qualifying for the first time in 2012, then again in 2016.

Following their success, Nigeria will join Group C in the women’s soccer competition at the Games. They will be alongside world champions Spain, Japan and Brazil. 

Even though they are historically and statistically the best women’s team on the continent (with a record 11 Wafcon titles), the Super Falcons are heading to their first Olympics since Beijing in 2008.

As for Banyana Banyana’s stars, they have suffered an intense reality check after the highs they reached in the past couple of years. DM

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  • Malcolm McManus says:

    Banyana Banyana do us proud. Now if they could just gender identify as men for a little while, perhaps Bafana Bafana would win a game or two for a change.

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