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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Banyana Olympics dream ends in heartache as they draw with Nigeria

Banyana needed a big performance to avoid missing out on back-to-back Olympics.

Banyana Banyana have failed to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris following a goalless draw against Nigeria at Loftus Versfeld.

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South Africa came into the game trailing 1-0 from the first leg of the final round of qualifiers.

Banyana needed a big performance to avoid missing out on back-to-back Olympics after failure to book their place for the last edition in Japan.

It ended in heartache for coach Desiree Ellis and her players who lacked creativity and the cutting edge to unlock the Nigerian defence. The West Africans were happy to sit on their lead and play on the backfoot.

Apart from Lebohang Ramalepe who was making her 100th appearance for Banyana, there was nothing to celebrate for the decent crowd that turned up in Tshwane.

For a team that was 1-0 behind on aggregate, Banyana didn’t grab the game by the scruff on the neck. They were too passive and let the Super Falcons settle in enemy territory. The visitors were never troubled in the opening 45 minutes. In fact, they looked comfortable for majority of the game.

The reigning African champions lacked hunger and if they were going to get something from the game, coach Desiree Ellis needed to react from the bench.

She brought on Hildah Magaia and Sinoxolo Cesane for Mapula Kgoale and Noxolo Cesane in an attempt to spark some life into the game. Banyana still didn’t do enough to threaten the Nigerian goal much to the frustration of the home crowd.

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Banyana tried in the final 10 minutes of the game to throw numbers forward looking for that elusive goal but it was too late.

Heads dropped at full time and there will be a lot of soul searching in the Banyana change room as they faltered at the last hurdle against their bitter rivals.

Nigeria will be in Group C alongside Brazil, Spain and Japan in France when the Olympic games get underway in July.

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