Chicago - Despite going down 1-0 to the United States in Chicago on Saturday, Banyana Banyana head coach Vera Pauw told her players she was proud of them ahead of the Rio Olympics.
With South Africa ranked 52nd, some had expected a thrashing from the reigning Olympic and world champions, but Pauw’s charges did not disappoint despite letting in a 35th-minute goal.
Crystal Dunn was the goal scorer in a match that both teams were using to prepare for the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics Games, and Pauw was impressed with her charges.
"It’s the first time in my career that I can say to my team 'congratulations and I am proud' despite a defeat. However, we need to realise that at this level the few chances you get you have to go for goal, and we didn’t do so. We have been working on that for a long time, and during pressure times if you don’t have the guts to fail, you will never succeed," said Pauw.
According to SASCOC, team skipper Janine van Wyk echoed her sentiments.
"We saw some of the US matches where they beat teams by high margins and we thought they would come out and hammer us, but we kept our cool. Overall we did extremely well against the world’s best and we can only improve from here on," said Van Wyk.
Pauw said that the USA underestimated them, "I must say the biggest task was to get them ready for the atmosphere, during the singing of the national anthem of the US for example, and playing against those big stars that they admire, but had to be equal with them at the same time.
"My players had to be on the same level with them otherwise you find yourself 5-0 down in no time. I also think we surprised the USA because the strategy was to press forward and not park the bus... I am excited because you can see the difference between this team now and about a month ago against the Netherlands – we have made immense improvement."
Former Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini reached her 100 caps for the national team and came on as a substitute in the hour mark for Linda Motlhalo.
"As for my 100th appearance I really tried to block everything out of my head before the match because I knew how important it was to first play the match then celebrate afterwards. I should thank all the people who showed appreciation for what I have done for the national team. So it is quite exciting to have finally made 100 caps today," said Dlamini.
Pauw and the technical team is set to select the final 22 players going to Rio.
"The result and performance has brought in even more hesitation from us selecting the final team, but we have to do it," said Pauw.
"We need to see the injured players – we had Shiwe Nogwanya with a dislocated elbow, but the doctor said she will be fine and we also had Robyn Moodaly, who is not strong enough yet – but we have about four weeks and she could make a big step... We will not make this decision lightly." said the Banyana Banyana mentor.
Banyana Banyana return home on Monday (July 11).