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Banyana hold heads high after holding Japan to 0-0 draw
- Updated: July 31, 2012
They may have finished stone last in their group but Banyana Banyana also saved their best for last in their Olympic Games debut, writes Mark Etheridge in London.
Playing their final Group F match, Banyana Banyana held world champions Japan to a goalless draw
in Cardiff, Wales on Tuesday.
In earlier matches they had gone down 4-1 to Sweden and 3-0 to Canada. Both of those matches were played in Coventry.
Sweden are ranked fourth in the world and Canada seventh and experts had predicted a thrashing for coach Joseph Mkhonza’a girls from third-ranked Japan.
But the girls prdouced easily the best performance of the Games and the nippy Japanese players failed to breach Thokozile Mndaweni’s goal. It’s the first clean-sheet of the Games for Banyana.
The team will now return to South Africa after failing to advance through to the next stage but they’ll return with heads held high and at least having something to work with going forward.
The fact that they managed to draw with only 35% of possession bears testimony to their gritty defence although it must be said that in the final stages the Japanese were content to play keep-ball and were in no great hurry to force a result.
Japan had 16 shots on goal (only three of them on target) while Amanda Dlamini’s girls had just six shots during the match, two of which were on target.
The Japanese had five corners during the match and South Africa just one.
When referee Thalia Mitsi of Greece blew for time after an extra five minutes of stoppage time, the smille on Mkhonza’s smile said it all.
South Africa picked up a few injuries during the game, most notably Mndaweni and skipper Dlamini but all in the cause as Banyana produced one of their best international performances to date.
Sweden ended up topping the Group with five points, while Japan also got five points but the Swedes had the better goal difference.