31 October 2018

South Africa: Qualifying for the World Cup Means Everything to Us - Mamello Makhabane

31 October 2018- Mamello Makhabane has come a long way with the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana.

With 83 caps and 19 goals behind her, she is one of the most experienced players in the current South African Senior Women's National Team.

She was part of the 2014 and 2016 squads for the Africa Women Cup of Nations tournament where Banyana Banyana came fourth on both occasions - missing out on World Cup qualification.

Makhabane has been plagued by injuries in recent times, and spent the better part of last year working her way back to full fitness.

She is now back in the squad, hoping to stake her claim in the final team that will represent South Africa at the upcoming 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations tournanent set to be staged in Ghana next month (from 17 November to 1 December).

After a long absence, she made an appearance in the AFCON qualifier against Lesotho in June this year, but did not make the COSAFA Cup team, and was left out of the travelling party to Chile.

"I would like to thank God for giving me another opportunity to play, it feels great to be back in the squad. I have been getting the best treatment and I am coping very well - I can tell you now that I am coming along nicely. Everyday I say to myself 'I will do my best and God will take care of the rest,' said Makhabane after another gruelling training session.

Banyana Banyana has been in camp for more than a week as they prepare to travel to Ghana, with head coach Desiree Ellis still needing to trim her squad down to 21 players for the tournament, something every player in camp is aware of - more so Makhabane who is fighting to be ready to be part of the squad.

"I would very much love to be part of the team, and qualify for the World Cup, for most of us this is the last opportunity to reach those highs, and I would like to be there, to celebrate with them," added Makhabane.

"Right now is not the time for me to stress, I just have to do what I have been told to do and focus on my injury get better, and also do the best I can to make the cut. But I cannot afford to relax because I see everyone is doing well at training and they also want to be part of the team - so it is a healthy competition as we are pushing each other towards a common goal."

South Africa has been drawn in Group B with Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya.

"This is a very tough group, and every team will be prepared for us so we have to be focussed and stick to instructions. We need to do much better this time around than the last two occasions where we came fourth because qualifying means everything to us. We have to go out there and fight for the country, and make not just ourselves but the whole country proud," said the JVW FC midfielder.

"The team has been doing well, we just have to focus more than ever because this is a different ball game and it's a different tournament, so we just have to give 120 percent and we will qualify."

The hosts Ghana are in Group A with Cameroon, Algeria and Mali.

South Africa's first match will be against the defending champions Nigeria, followed by Kenya and will complete the round robin stage with a clash against Kenya.

The top two sides in the groups will progress to the semi-finals - and the top three nations will represent Africa at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France in June.

Group A Group B

Ghana Nigeria

Algeria South Africa

Mali Zambia

Cameroon Kenya

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