LEBOGANG RAMALEPE REFLECTS ON HISTORIC BANYANA BANYANA PERFORMANCE DOWN UNDER Banyana Banyana players thanking the fans for their support Author: John AliuBanyana Banyana made a significant impact at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand, despite exiting at the Round of 16 stage at the hands of the Netherlands, in a historic edition featuring 32 teams for the first time. In their debut performance in the 2019 edition of the international tournament, the team struggled to make a mark as they lost all three games and scored only once. However, this year, Coach Desiree Ellis’ troops achieved several memorable milestones Down Under that will reverberate for years to come.

Placed in Group G, the reigning African champions narrowly lost to Sweden 2-1 in their opener. Nevertheless, history was made in the second game against Argentina, which ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw, securing South Africa’s first-ever World Cup point.

Things got even better in the third and final group game against Italy as the South Africans achieved a historic record - their first-ever victory with a thrilling 3-2 win. This remarkable achievement also secured them a place in the knockout stage for the first time. The last-gasp finish from Thembi Kgatlana will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest moments in Banyana Banyana’s history!

Sundowns Ladies defender Lebogang Ramalepe, who started every game, expressed the profound significance of the goal to her and her teammates. She shared, “As a team, we knew how crucial that last game against Italy was, so we gave it our all. It was an incredible moment for us because that goal not only secured our first-ever win but also sent us to the knockout stages. I will never forget that moment in my career and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.”
© Muzi NtombelaLebogang Ramalepe during a Banyana Banyana training session Despite the 2-0 loss to the Netherlands, a team ranked ninth in the FIFA World rankings and finalists four years ago, Lebogang believes that Banyana Banyana has made significant strides. She asserts, “Not everyone believed that we would qualify for the knockout stages when we lost our first game against Sweden. However, we found ourselves among the best teams in the last 16 of the tournament. We came, we saw and we indeed gave our best. Considering how our performance was four years ago, it shows how much we have improved.”

This year’s edition of the prestigious women’s football tournament featured several unexpected results and cruel shocks. Two-time winners of the competition, Germany, crashed out in the group stage, while Marta’s Brazil also suffered an early exit, marking one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition. Additionally, Canada, ranked seventh in the world, also made an early departure during the group stages, while four-time winners United States finished second in their group.
Ramalepe reckons that the high-profile exits further show how the women’s game is evolving at an astounding rate. She expresses, “It’s just incredible how several of the big teams struggled against underdogs during the group stage. This not only highlights the growth of the game but also underscores the level of investment that has been made in developing and nurturing talent across various countries.”
“In major tournaments like this one, where teams are causing upsets, it truly shows that anything is possible in the world of football. As more nations continue to evolve and invest in their women’s programs, we can expect even more exciting and unpredictable moments in future tournaments,” Ramalepe concluded.
Although Coach Desiree Ellis’ troops exited the tournament at the Round of 16 stage, they left Down Under with their heads held high. Their journey at the tournament was filled with unforgettable moments, newfound strength and immense pride in representing South Africa on the global stage.

The spirit and resilience shown by the team are a testament to the potential and bright future of women’s football in the country and their journey will serve as a source of motivation and aspiration for generations to come.
Highlights of Sundowns Ladies at the Tournament:1.In Banyana Banyana’s opening group game against Sweden, Lebogang Ramalepe and Bambanani Mbane started in defense.

2.In the second game against Argentina, Ramalepe and Mbane retained their places, while Karabo Dhlamini was called upon to start. Later on, Melinda Kgadiete made her debut as she was brought on.

3.In the final group game against Italy, Ramalepe, Mbane and Dhlamini were all included, while Tiisetso was handed a late entrance.

4.Ramalepe, Mbane and Dhlamini retained their places in the Round of 16 fixture against the Netherlands. Tiisetso was called upon to replace the injured Mbane just before the halftime break while Melinda Kgadiete was brought on late in the match.
Congratulations to the Banyana Banyana for making history Down Under and putting up a brave fight throughout the competition!!!