SAFA : Banyana Banyana enter final phase of Olympic preparations
Banyana Banyana enters the final phase of their 2016 Rio Olympic Games preparations with an international friendly match against New Zealand later today (Thursday, 28 July 2016) in Rio de Janeiro.
The clash kicks off at 14h00 local time (19h00 SA time – Brazil is five hours behind South Africa).
The encounter is the last warm-up exercise before South Africa takes on Sweden in the opening match of the Olympics on Wednesday, 3 August.
The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday, 24 July – much earlier than most teams – to acclimatize to the conditions of the South American city, and head coach Vera Pauw believes it was a masterstroke.
“I am very happy that we were able to come here early so that by the time the Games start we have already found our feet and acclimatized well. We are facing New Zealand in our last preparation match. We went down in terms of the level of where we want to be, but we are on the rise again. With this friendly, we have to see if we are at our best again – and by that I mean the level of performance against the USA, which I believe is the best game that we have played so far,” said Pauw.
“But in the back of our minds we already have the matches against Sweden, then China and Brazil and we are preparing for those encounters.”
The Banyana Banyana mentor adds that they will put the friendly to good use as it comes at the right time – just six days before the opening match against Sweden.
“We need to work the final touches of the team organization, as to how we are actually going to play in the tournament – we know all of that already, but the focus against New Zealand will be working on those moments when you want to change or influence the game in different ways. This is also a test for the players to see who is ready because the sharpest players will play against Sweden,” added Pauw.
New Zealand is ranked 16th in the world compared to South Africa’s 52nd position.
They come with loads of experience as they have been to the World Cup on three occasions – 2007, 2011 and 2015, while also qualifying for three consecutive Olympic Games – 2008, 2012 and 2016.
They have been drawn in Group G alongside the USA, Colombia, and France