Banyana Banyana might find their World Cup pot a bit hot
A worst case scenario would see them in a pool containing the likes of USA, Brazil and China
Banyana Banyana will learn their 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup fate on December 8 when the draw is made for the pool stages of the global showpiece event that will be staged in France from June 7 to July 7.
Coach Desiree Ellis’s side will make their bow at the World Cup and get the chance to play against some of the elite women's’ sides on the planet, a rare opportunity to showcase the quality of the team to a global audience. It will be a daunting prospect, but also one that should excite the players and coaching staff as they debut in the same country in which Bafana Bafana made their World Cup bow in 1998.
The 24 qualified teams will be drawn into six groups, with the top two sides and the four best runners-up advancing to the knockout rounds. The seedings for the draw will be finalised when the latest Fifa Women’s World Rankings are released on December 7, but what is sure is that Banyana will be in the lowest pot. Only Jamaica (64 in the world) are ranked below Banyana in the confirmed field, though with two qualifiers still to determined, that could change.
Mali (89) will qualify if they beat Cameroon (49) in Friday’s African Women’s Championship third-place play-off on Friday, while there is a slim chance that Fiji (81) could upset New Zealand (20). But assuming that does not happen and the remainder of the qualifiers goes to form and ranking, the pots could look like this, with hosts France already guaranteed top seeds in Group A: Pot 1 – USA, Germany, England, Canada, Australia.
Pot 2 – Japan, Brazil, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Norway.
Pot 3 – South Korea, China, Italy, Scotland, New Zealand, Thailand.
Pot 4 – Argentina, Nigeria, Chile, Cameroon, South Africa, Jamaica. There are certainly no easy contests, but a worst case scenario would see a pool containing the likes of USA, Brazil and China, all exceptionally accomplished teams in women’s football. The best case is hard to read, but would be something along the lines of Australia, Spain and Scotland.
Banyana are not the only debutants in the tournament. Scotland, Chile and Jamaica are all also making their bow. Italy are appearing for the first time in almost 20 years after last playing in 1999.
Brazil, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden and USA are teams that have qualified for every tournament since it was first played in 1991, with the Americans claiming the title on a record three occasions, including in 2015. Germany (two wins), Japan and Norway are the other teams to lift the trophy.
The tournament will form part of an exciting time for SA football if Bafana Bafana can finish the job against Libya next March and qualify for the 2019 African Nations Cup finals in Cameroon, which will run almost concurrently with the Women’s World Cup.