No easy group for Banyana at Afcon

Banyana Banyana training session at Nelson Mandela University
Banyana Banyana training session at Nelson Mandela University
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

Shot-stopper Kaylin Swart says the pool Banyana Banyana have been drawn in for the group stages of the Africa Women Cup of Nations is not for the faint-hearted.

However, Swart, 24, of Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth, says the team is well-prepared for the tournament which kicks off in Ghana on Saturday and finishes on December 1.

Banyana, in group B, are up against defending champions and 10-time Africa Cup of Nations winners Nigeria in their first game of the competition on Sunday.

The other teams in their group are Zambia and Kenya.

The team, who defended their Cosafa Cup title by beating Cameroon 2-1 in Port Elizabeth in September, are making their 12th appearance at the tournament.

“On paper it is not an easy group. People might say it is a group of death. So be it, but we are ready for the occasion,” Swart said.

“It won’t take faint-hearted players to get through it. I think we are all going to have be really brave and we have to fight for 90 minutes [in] every game we play.

“We know it is going to be a battle, so everyone is aware of what is ahead of us.

“We know we have Nigeria first, so every training session we go into we know what is at stake. Our coaches put the plan out there and we need to execute it.

“It is going to be tough. “No team is small any more, “We will take each game as it comes, because we do not want to plan ahead too much.

“Nigeria has always been a rival. It’s not going to be easy but we are up for it.

“We just have to put some pieces of the puzzle together before Sunday.”

The goalkeeper made her debut for Banyana earlier this year against Sweden.

She was also in the side at the 2010 U17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Seeing that it is my first Afcon, being involved in it and playing feels great. We all want to do well in our first game.

“That is what we are all aiming for – a good performance – hopefully good things will come from it,” Swart said.

This year, Banyana have set their sights on a spot at the 2019 World Cup in France.

They are determined to finish among the top three at the Afcon tournament, which will guarantee a ticket to France.

“When I was with the U17 team we were kids. Nothing really sank in until we got there.

“But when we qualified, it was a great achievement.

“We could qualify for the World Cup – that would probably be the greatest achievement for all 21 of us.”