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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SA's hopes glow brighter after Nigeria ban


South Africa's women soccer side Banyana Banyana have been presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to win the CAF Women's Championship for the first time after finishing runners-up on three occasions.

The Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) on Monday banned Nigeria's national teams from all international competition indefinitely because of their government's interference in the sport.

Since the start of the CAF Women's Championship in 1991, Nigeria have lifted the trophy seven times in eight tournaments.

Nigeria's absence opens the way for Banyana Banyana to win the supreme prize on offer to women footballers under the Confederation of African Football (CAF) umbrella. It is likely Ghana will offer the strongest opposition at the upcoming championship in Gauteng at the end of October.

On the latest women's world standings for African countries, Nigeria are way out in front, followed by Ghana, and then South Africa.

But at Tuesday's media conference in Woodstock, Cape Town, Banyana Banyana coach Augustine Makalakalane, said he was unaware that Nigeria had been banned.

Instead, he explained, he was focused on assembling the best squad for the CAF showpiece.

He felt the team's friendly against Mali on Saturday on the East Rand would help to solve the selection puzzle.

"Goalkeeping has been been a serious challenge for us and that's why I have four keepers in the squad," said Makalakalane.

"There has also been a problem on the left side and during the friendly I will be able to see if the selected players are the ones who can solve the problem areas.

"There is good tension in the squad and I'm pleased about that because I want players to fight for their places."

South Africa have drawn Mali in the Group A pool in the upcoming championships, but the friendly had been arranged before the CAF draw took place.

"Mali insisted they still wanted to go ahead with the match and I'm fine with that," said Makalakalane. "We just have to make sure we don't give away too much technically because they will be able to learn about our game.

"I'm also aware there could be many others from competing nations who will make a point of watching the match to gather information about our players."

In terms of the first-round results of the 2010 Women's African Football Championship it is very likely that Ivory Coast who lost 5-2 on aggregate to Nigeria, will be invited to join the eight-team field for the finals in Gauteng.

A 30-player Banyana Banyana squad is presently in camp in Stellenbosch and Makalakalane said its was possible more players would be added as the squad prepare for more friendlies in the run-in to the 2010 championship.

Squad for Mali friendly:

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