By FOCUS REPORTER
THE Senior Women’s National team caretaker coach, Joseph Mkhonza, believes they have been handed a fair draw in the 10th edition of the All Africa Games. Banyana Banyana are in Group B with Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Ghana, while hosts Mozambique will be up against Cameroon, Guinea and Algeria in Group A.
The draw was conducted yesterday at the headquarters of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) in Cairo, Egypt.
The South Africans faced Zimbabwe in the final of the COSAFA Women’s Championship held in Harare last Saturday, and lost 1-0 to the home side.
In the 2007 edition of the AAG Banyana Banyana defeated Ghana in the semi-finals in Algeria, and went on to lose to Nigeria who have not qualified for the 2011 showpiece. Ghana finished third.
“It’s a fair draw and with proper preparations we will do well in this tournament. I feel we will be ready to face the teams we were drawn against, but you cannot underestimate any side as I have noticed major improvements in Women’s football on the international scene. We need to ensure we remain among the best in the world. We have faced countries like Zimbabwe and Tanzania recently and we will use the experience we gained in the COSAFA tournament to draw up better preparation plans for the upcoming tournament. As much as well feel proper preparations have to be put in place for the tournament, we must also consider that some of the players are students and have to put their education first because it is equally important. Once I have done some consultation with my technical team, I will be able to put together a training plan that will work around their schooling schedules,” said Mkhonza.
Team captain Amanda Dlamini was equally cautious about the draw.
“It’s a good draw, and while we have played against the teams in our groups thorough preparations will be crucial. We had a good tournament in Zimbabwe and we need to continue where we left off. Hopefully we will have all our players, including those playing abroad, to ensure we leave nothing to chance. A great run in the AAG will prepare us very well for the crucial Olympic qualifier against Ethiopia in September and I am confident that we will do well in Mozambique,” said Dlamini.
On the other hand the South African National Under 23 team will face hosts Mozambique, Libya and Madagascar in Group A of the men’s section. South Africa defeated Libya 4-2 in the first leg of their Olympic qualifier at the Sinaba Stadium in Daveyton in March this year, and then played to a goalless draw in the return leg held two weeks later on neutral grounds in Mali due to political upheaval in Libya.
“Playing against any team is never easy, and now we have been drawn against the hosts which will make our job more difficult. They have the home support which means my players will have to double their efforts but I am confident we are in with a chance. We have faced countries like Madagascar and Libya, and even though we know how they play it is not going to be easy. They are not in the tournament to make up the numbers, and also we can’t rely on past results because teams will have regrouped and made several changes. All of them, except for the hosts, fought very hard to get to Mozambique so we also have to be at our best conquer them,” said South African National Under 23 team coach Shakes Mashaba.
In Group B Cameroon has been pitted against Uganda, Ghana and Senegal.
For both the men’s and women’s competition, the two top teams from each group will advance to the semi final with the eventual winners progressing to the final.
The 10th edition of the All Africa Games will be played from September 3-18 in Maputo, Mozambique.