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2019 World Cup Preview: South Africa

A World Cup debut is a big deal, at least

2018 TOTAL African Womens Cup of Nations: Nigeria v South Africa Photo by Samuel Ahmadu/Gallo Images

This isn’t South Africa’s first taste of a big international tournament, but it’s probably their most important. After not qualifying for a tournament outside of Africa as far back as 1996, they qualified for two straight Olympics, in 2012 and 2016. Unfortunately they scored just one goal over those two tournaments, amassing just one draw in each, and going out in the group stage. This year, it’s the World Cup.

The Team

2019 has not been kind to South Africa. They’ve played nine games, drawn three, lost six, and scored just six goals. If looking for a shred of good news, one might note that they lost just 2-1 to the Netherlands in a January friendly, and drew Sweden 0-0 at the 2019 Cyprus Cup. Unfortunately they also have a 3-0 loss to Finland, and a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic, which are two teams who are not going to France.

How They’ve Fared

This is South Africa’s first World Cup.

How They Qualified

South Africa won Group B at the 2018 Cup of Nations, edging Nigeria by a point and thus qualifying for the World Cup.

Group

B, with Germany, China, and Spain.

Player You Know

As the most capped South African player of any gender (159), 32-year-old Janine Van Wyk is an icon. After spending 2017 with the Houston Dash of the NWSL, Van Wyk returned to South Africa and now plays for JVW FC, a women’s team affiliated with JVW Girls Football Development, a program which Van Wyk started in 2012 to help raise the level of play of women’s football in her home country by giving young girls more and better opportunities to play. She’s someone worthy of your support.

Player You’ll Know Soon

Midfielder Linda Motlhalo will turn 21 before the end of the tournament, but she’s already had plenty of good senior team experience. In 2018 she made 21 appearances for the Houston Dash, tallying a goal and an assist, and over the off-season she moved to China’s Beijing BG Phoenix. She’s credited with 41 caps and 9 goals for South Africa’s senior side, and started all five of their matches at the 2018 Cup of Nations. She’s only going to get better.

World Cup Outlook

Not great, Bob. I don’t foresee much scoring by the Banyana Banyana, and I would be stunned if they don’t finish last in their group.