Banyana skipper-we’re ready for Rio!

Ready for Rio. Banyana skipper Janine Van Wyk believes they can pull surprises at the Rio Olympics games, beginning on August 3, the day SA is voting for Municipal Elections.

The 29-year-old Van Wyk, who holds the record for the most caps (132) for Banyana, played in the 2012 London Olympics, but wasn’t the skipper back then.

Now she hopes for a better result this time around against Sweden (6pm SA time kickoff), who were also Banyana’s first opponents in London, with the Scandinavian side winning 4-1 on that occasion.

The Swedes are ranked sixth in the world and South Africa 52nd, and despite Banyana facing world and Olympic champions USA recently, Van Wyk believes that the 2012 Swedish side are the toughest opponents she has faced.

“The nerves are starting to kick in – the good ones though. We have been preparing for this moment for a very long time, about eight months to be precise, and it’s finally happening,” the captain told the SA Football Association website on the eve of Wednesday’s clash.

“The girls are feeling it and we have been talking among ourselves that this is the time we have been working so hard for. We have been meeting these girls (Sweden team) up and down the elevator, and thinking that those are the opponents we will be facing.

“We also were thinking that in 2012 in London, it was our opening match against them and the result was not what we expected, which makes it a game that is unforgettable.

“When people ask me today who was the toughest opponent we have ever faced, it would be Sweden, who beat us 4-1 in 2012 and we were not well prepared. This time around we are looking forward to the match and going for it as best as we can, with the team high on confidence in ourselves as a group.”

The Americans won 1-0 in Chicago, but Vera Pauw’s team acquitted themselves well on the day, which saw the coach being asked about a number of her players by US clubs.

That gave the South Africans the confidence Van Wyk speaks of, but they came crashing down to earth soon after arrival in Rio when they lost 4-1 to New Zealand in their final warm-up game last Thursday.

That result would’ve knocked them back a bit, although Van Wyk feels off-field distractions were more to blame than the technical ability of the team against the Kiwis, who are rated at No 17 in the rankings.

The skipper is hopeful that they can produce a positive display on Wednesday at the famous Maracana Stadium – which is being used as the Olympic Stadium – that has a capacity of around 74 000.

“It is a wake-up call, and I am glad it happened out of competition where there were some distractions around us – from being in the Olympic Village and being overwhelmed by it all. In 2012 we were not in the Village, so this is a totally new experience for us,” Van Wyk said.

“It was an indication that we need to up our game and concentrate fully on what we are here for and what we have been working hard for. We are really happy that it happened (the loss to New Zealand), that we got the shock of our lives – luckily it did not happen against Sweden.”

Banyana’s other Group E opponents are China (August 6) and Brazil (August 9). But it’s all about Sweden right now, and Van Wyk is adamant that SA have enough experience to deal with the pressure on Wednesday.

“We are now much more fitter, stronger and more experienced in our play (than in 2012). There are 10 players in our squad who were at the London Olympics, so the experience is there and we know what to expect around us,” she said.

“We played some international friendly matches against the world’s best teams and we know what to expect from these teams, especially Sweden. Hopefully we can do our best and show the world what South Africa is about.”

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