Noko Matlou ready for 'war' as Banyana prepare to take on China

Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk and coach Desiree Ellis.
Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk and coach Desiree Ellis.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Banyana Banyana veteran Noko Matlou says the team is preparing for “war” against China in their must-win Group D clash at the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Paris on Thursday.

Banyana let a lead slip as they went down to Spain in their tournament opener over the weekend - and with world number two Germany to come in their final pool match, they must get something against the Asian side to keep their second round hopes alive.

"It’s going to be a war. Every team that has qualified for the World Cup, you will not walk on the park with them, you have to fight,” said Matlou.

"We just have to go there and fight and see how far we are, but the way we played against Spain, if we can take that and do even more against China, then we can do something. We really need to [get] the result. It would give us a chance [to] go to the second round.”

Matlou said there were positives to take from the Spain game, not least that they scored a good goal and largely held their opponents comfortably for an hour before a couple of penalty decisions went against them.

"It was tough because we knew when we scored first that was our moment and we had to defend. The two penalties, they were hard decisions against us. It was painful because the way we played, we deserved a win,” she said.

Matlou, 33, who has played more than 150 times for Banyana, has known plenty of heartache in trying to qualify for World Cups over the years. Now in the twilight of her national career, she is embracing the experience in France.

"It was tough in 2014 when we lost against Ivory Coast [and failed to qualify]. Although we were heartbroken, we knew our time would come," she said.

"I have sacrificed a lot and today I am just grateful to be at the World Cup. I have waited for this since I started playing football. It is something I always wanted to achieve.”

Banyana last played China at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro three years ago and lost 2-0, with the likes of Matlou, Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana all featuring that day.

They will take some heart from that contest - definitely more than when they met the Chinese in 2003 and lost 13-0, which remains Banyana’s heaviest defeat ever.