Banyana in tough World Cup group
● Banyana Banyana were grouped with Germany, China and Spain in the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup draw in Paris last night.
The South African national team, who qualified for France 2019 as last weekend’s finalists in the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon), will have their work cut out progressing past the group stage of their first World Cup.
Germany, the 2003 and 2007 world champions, are the powerhouse team in Group B. Spain are playing in just their second tournament, having qualified for Canada 2015. China are playing in their sixth World Cup, their best finish as runners-up in 1999.
Coach Desiree Ellis’s team do have a yardstick for their abilities on a global stage from their appearances at the last two Olympics, at London 2012 and Rio 2016. They exited both in the first round, but showed signs of progression in the four years in between.
In 2012, under Joseph Mkhonza, SA lost 4-1 against Sweden and 3-0 against Canada, but recovered to a creditable 0-0 draw against Japan, that year's 2-1 finalist losers against the US.
In 2016 Banyana, under Vera Pauw, lost 2-1 against eventual losing finalists Sweden, and 2-0 against China, then drew 0-0 against fourth-placed finishers Brazil.
SA reached the World Cup with one of their most convincing performances at an Awcon, losing on penalties against 10-time winners Nigeria in last Saturday's final. They had beaten Nigeria 1-0 in the group stage, thrashed Equatorial Guinea 7-1 and drew 1-1 against Zambia. They beat Mali 2-0 in the semifinals.