South Africa: Banyana Touch Down in Sydney Ahead of Netherlands Showdown

South African Football Association (SAFA) CEO Lydia Monyepao was at Sydney International Airport to welcome the African champions and she was accompanied by Acting High Commissioner Leonard Khoza and First Secretary Political and Economic Lebogang Mokwena.

Coach Desiree Ellis’ Sasol-sponsored charges made history after they became the first ever South African team, men or women, to make it out of the group stages of a FIFA World Cup following their 3-2 win over Italy in the final group stage match at the Wellington Regional Stadium in New Zealand on Wednesday.

Hildah Magaia walked away with the player of the match award, becoming the second South African player to get the accolade at the tournament after Thembi Kgatlana won the same honour in the game against Argentina a few days ago.

“All I can say is that it’s all God’s glory for me. I just want to thank the Almighty for all he has done for me, the talent he has given me and I also want to thank the coaches for the opportunity and the trust they have in me. They call me the breadwinner and without the breadwinner there is no bread, and I had to provide the bread for the nation,” said Magaia on her player of the match award.

An emotional Ellis spoke highly of her players’ fighting spirit after the game, saying that not many had given Banyana Banyana a chance as they headed into this encounter, but they rose above it all to make a historic mark.

“I think there was a time on the line when we had five coaches, including the captain, giving direction because it was that tough of a game. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we also knew what we were capable of and we trained a couple of days on what we would do if we went behind, because we have never come from behind. These girls are just amazing,” said the coach.

“I speak through every challenge that they faced in the past looking at WAFCON as well. No one gave us a chance, but we knew what we were capable of and they fought like warriors out there. We said we needed to keep our best players on the pitch and we managed that by not pressing all the time.

“This is for everyone back home, people getting up in the early hours of the morning, and when they were all disappointed when we should have won against Argentina. This is for everyone, and I said I wanted them to go to work smiling [as the game played at 09:00am] back home. This is for all the coaches in the league who have played their parts, this is for the coaches who came before me and everybody involved in women’s football.”