Banyana Banyana have it all do in their Olympic qualifier return leg away to Equatorial Guinea next Sunday but coach Vera Pauw is still confident they’ll book their sport in Rio next year.
The team have returned to camp after the drawn 0-0 match against Equatorial Guinea in Tembisa last week.
That, after their two drawn matches at the African Games in Congo last month.
SAFA Media had a chat with Pauw at the training camp ahead of the all-important match.
Coach you must have been pleased with the performance of the team on Saturday, but disappointed with the result…
Vera Pauw: ‘If we don’t grab our chances then we will not succeed. This is our chance. Everyone saw that we were so much better, and they (Equatorial Guinea) were in shock because it was as if they didn’t know how to deal with us. As for the missed chances, that is an ongoing problem that we have to sort out. We can’t be missing so many chances. I know we will create more in the away leg and score them. What we also need to do is to keep things tight at the back because if we don’t concede then we will go through.’
Talking about not conceding, it shows the defence was solid in the first leg.
‘It is a huge compliment to our defenders. It has also happened before that when we can’t score, our defence is working hard and battling the whole game to ensure we don’t concede. The only chance the opposition had was through a mistake from us. They did not really threaten much the entire match. They are a bit strong so we don’t have to be naïve. Because if we had conceded then the away match would have been very very difficult.’
Does the 0-0 give Banyana Banyana an advantage?
‘Actually not. The bottom line is that we are going to a very difficult match in Equatorial Guinea. The first leg was tough, which was a clear indication of what to expect. What I liked was that the game was played in good spirit, no animosity and there were no high-flying tackles so that gives us hope that we will be treated well and then be able to focus on our game. Away we will score, I am very confident of that. It’s just a matter of making sure that they don’t score.’
Speaking of that, when the team went to Kenya not many gave them a chance but you came back victorious. Is that what also gives you the confidence that you will do well away?
‘Although it may sound strange, we had more challenges with Kenya that we did with Equatorial Guinea, and maybe that shows how far we have grown from the African Games – and that is why is I am so confident. It’s not so much playing away, but more about knowing the opposition. Our players need to know that they are better because they don’t believe it until they play the opposition. I am absolutely sure we will be livelier, we will be more creative and take more initiative and also create more chances there.’
Ninety minutes or so left between Banyana Banyana and qualification to Brazil, what’s going on in your mind?
‘At this moment a lot. I am asking myself why didn’t we grab the chances that we created? We could have wrapped it up had we been able to convert those opportunities. So it’s more a mixed feeling of here is a team that three years ago beat us by a big margin, but we outplayed them. Our players need to start believing in themselves. They should not fear the new future, and should actually embrace it.’
Will that be key going into the second leg?
‘Yes, absolutely. I said to them if we don’t grab this then we might not get a chance like this anymore because we are so ready, and everybody is so focused. This is the moment, this is our moment, they have to do it now. The tactics worked very well. They just have to increase the belief in themselves. I hope in the next few days before our match we will make it clearer, to prepare them to play their best game ever – it may not be the nicest game to watch but one that will lead to success. I know we are going to do it.’
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