Banyana Banyana may have started their maiden Women’s World Cup campaign on a sour note, but captain Janine van Wyk is adamant that they have still got a lot to play for.
On Saturday, the South Africans suffered a 3-1 defeat to Spain at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France.
Banyana had taken the lead thanks to Thembi Kgatlana’s curler from outside the box. However, the Spaniards returned with aplomb in the second half as a brace from Jennifer Hermoso and a solitary strike from Lucia Garcia ensured the South Africans made a disappointing debut at the global showpiece.
The Banyana captain, however, understands that there is no time to cry over spilt milk as they have to dust themselves off and continue the hunt for a place in the knockout stages. Banyana will next face China at Parc des Princes, Paris on Thursday.
What makes the match tricky for coach Desiree Ellis’ troop is that the Asians are also licking their own wounds after a 1-0 defeat to Germany in their opener.
“The China match is a do or die for us. We have a very important task against China. Obviously against Spain we had them in the first half and in another half things got very tough. With China losing their opening game against Germany, I think they are going to give us a tough battle,” Van Wyk said.
“But we need to try and uphold them. Obviously, we are going to have a set game plan and hopefully that will benefit us in more ways than it did in the first game. It’s an important game for us as it will gauge whether we’ll make it through to the next round or not.”
The two goals that Hermoso scored were penalties following the use of the controversial Video Assistant Referee. Van Wyk was penalised for a handball inside the box, while Nothando Vilakazi got her matching orders for a reckless tackle in the penalty area.
Van Wyk, a former Houston Dash defender, admits that she is still a fan of VAR, despite decisions going against Banyana on Saturday.
“When VAR came out, I was hesitant (to speak out) of what I felt about it,” Van Wyk said. “I also felt that it was good in a way because teams can’t cheat and they had to play by the rules. And then you have a situation where we were in, and it can always turn against you. I guess with VAR, unclear decision could be made. I said to my teammates, ‘if those decisions were in our favour, we’d look at VAR and say it’s amazing and we can’t hate it now because they were against us’.”
Having come up short in leading her compatriots to the World Cup before, Van Wyk admits she was overwhelmed when the South African national anthem was in full swing at Stade Oceane.
“I think I was focused on what I needed to do on the game more than my surroundings and the atmosphere,” she said.
“I didn’t have much time to think about it and obviously when I sang the national anthem it was like we are here and this is our moment.”