Vera Pauw (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Banyana Banyana head coach Vera Pauw said one little mistake cost them, when they went down to Sweden in their opening Olympic fixture on Wednesday.
Some 46 places separate the two teams in the FIFA world rankings, but at the end of their opening Group E match at the Olympic stadium in Rio, only one goal was the difference between Sweden and Banyana Banyana.
According to the SASCOC website, It was a scrambled 75th minute winner by defender Nilla Fischer that gave Sweden, ranked sixth, a 1-0 victory against 52nd-ranked South Africa.
"That one little mistake cost us. The more experienced teams will punish you when you make a little mistake. We should be going forward more, making more in our attacks and creating more chances, but these are the players we have got at the moment so I can’t ask for more than they are giving," said Pauw after the game.
In fairness, it was a deserved win for the Swedes, who will be relieved that they were able to find the net after resolute defence had threatened to hold them at bay.
Banyana goalkeeper Roxy Barker dealt with various crosses during the game, failed to hold on to a corner and then fumbled the subsequent cross that was the scoreboard difference between the two sides.
The stats tell of a match largely dominated by the Scandinavians.
They won the corner count 12-2, shots at goal 10-3 and shots on target 4-1. Yet, it was the one stat that counted – the 1-0 scoreline – that gave them the three points.
Four years ago, at London 2012, the two teams had met and Sweden came out of that 4-1 to the good. So, while disappointed at the result, Banyana Banyana will have reason to feel happy with a performance in a match in which they always threatened on the counter attack.
"I don’t compare 2012 (London Olympics) to 2016. This has been a journey going forward and there has been plenty hard work put in by everyone.
"I told the players at half-time that they were playing too many long balls into the space in the Swedish half. There was a lot of space there and I asked for us to get forward quicker so that we could capitalise on that.
"This has been an incredible journey for us and the improvement we are showing is giving us a really good chance to start getting results against these higher-ranked sides... I’m sure you can see the tremendous growth in our football. We showed it again today. We are getting closer," she said.
Banyana struggled to create chances and were reliant on Motlhalo surging forward on the counter, while Amanda Dlamini, making her 101st appearance, looked lively.
In the later Group E match hosts Brazil beat China 3-0 to go top of the standings on goal difference, and South Africa will need to get something out of their game against China to have any hope of progressing beyond the pool stages.