Banyana 11th in Cyprus Cup
Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Banyana Banyana had something to celebrate as they ended their disappointing Cyprus Cup campaign in 11th place, after beating Northern Ireland 5-4 on penalties in Paralimini, Cyprus, on Wednesday.
After going down 2-0 to Korea before narrowly losing 1-0 to Ireland, Banyana defeated Northern Ireland 2-1 to complete the group stages and set up a clash to battle for the 11th and 12th playoff spots.
Andile Dlamini was the heroine, making a superb save to hand the South Africans the victory.
Ahead of the trip to Cyprus, South Africa's head coach Joseph Mkhonza
spoke of creating a larger pool of players and giving untested players from the Sasol League a chance to prove their worth at national team level.
Two Banyana Banyana recruits - Shiwe Nogwanya and Zanele Chiya - had the opportunity of experiencing international soccer for the first time.
The 22-year-old Chiya is one of the five new players called up to the national set-up for the first time and has remained positive, despite not featuring in the tournament.
"I'm thrilled just to have been part of Banyana Banyana and the past three weeks have all been about learning for me," said Chiya, a defender from the TUT Ladies team.
"I've learned how to move the ball quickly, the importance of timing when in possession and quick recovery after losing the ball. But most critically, I found that the bonding with team-mates off the field makes the chemistry so effortless to work with during match-day."
Nogwanya, one of the few success stories of the tournament, made her debut during the match against Northern Ireland, at the Tasos Markou Stadium, on Monday. She believes she and her teammates learnt a lot during the trip.
"Things were tough out here and we had to chase most of the games after slow starts and conceding early in the match, but moving forward emphasis in our play must be to focus at all times," Nogwanya said.
She came close to scoring on two occasions against Northern Ireland on Wednesday and said she found the step up to international soccer a big one.
"I found things very different from club level to the international stage," the Bloemfontein Celtic striker said.
"The tactics, ball work at training and moving into space at specific times during matches was a key learning area for me, but I believe through hard work I will improve and be recalled for future national team camps."