Banyana Banyana’s aspirations of making their third successive Olympic Games came to an abrupt end on Tuesday night after they were defeated 3-2 via the lottery of a penalty shoot-out by Botswana in the second round of the 2020 Tokyo qualifiers.
Having scored 23 goals in the Cosafa Women’s Championship, the South Africans huffed and puffed in search of a goal at Orlando Stadium, but just couldn’t find their scoring boots in regulation time and extra time.
Sure, it may have been a year of roller-coaster outings for Banyana, but coach Desiree Ellis will be banking on her troops to convert their chances regularly if they are going to be the complete outfit, as their finishing cost them dearly against Botswana.
Following a 13-game winless streak, the South Africans returned to winning ways in the Cosafa Championship last month, winning all five matches to be crowned the southern African regional champions for the sixth time in seven attempts.
However, that winning momentum was dented by a 0-0 draw with the Zebras of Botswana in the first leg of the Olympic qualifiers at Botswana National Stadium last Friday.
That setback gave the Batswana a slight advantage, as the away-goals rule would be in their favour.
It was, however, the home side who had the first real opportunity to take the lead on Tuesday night.
In the eighth minute, Mamello Makhabane delivered a telling corner that connected with the head of Jermaine Seoposenwe, who blasted the opportunity into the stands.
But Botswana flipped the script, and came out guns blazing.
Bolothlanyi Johannes struck a delightful set-piece that slipped through the ‘butter fingers’ of Andile Dlamini, whose blushes were saved by Lebohang Ramalepe as the latter cleared the ball away from danger.
The Banyana No 1 was having a nervy first half as she nearly cost her team dearly.
From a Johannes corner, Dlamini helped the ball into her own net before being saved by the referee, who cautioned the visitors for an offside.
The South Africans survived the scare and should have gone to the break with a goal or two, but they fluffed their opportunities.
Following a lovely delivery from Ramalepe down the right flank, Busisiwe Ndimeni did well to meet the pass, before sending her diving header wide of goal.
Seoposenwe was next to test the waters, but her pinpoint effort went inches wide of goalkeeper Sendilame Bosija’s near post.
After coming on for Amanda Mthandi early in the second stanza, Noxolo Cesane appeared to be a breath of fresh air for the South Africans upfront.
However, despite creating chances of her own, Cesane was also unable to convert.
In the 75th minute, Makhabane should have grabbed the lead for Banyana, but her long-range free kick rattled the upright and the rebound was cleared to safety.
The two teams couldn’t be separated after 90 minutes, and had to take the game to extra time.
But that still wasn’t enough, as their fate was decided in a penalty shoot-out, where Botswana converted most of their spot-kicks and progressed to the third round of the Olympic qualifiers.