The USWNT will face South Africa for the first time on July 9 as they prepare to leave for the Rio Olympics.
This is the first of two July friendlies to send the team off to Brazil; first they’ll play South Africa, and then Costa Rica on July 22. Perhaps the biggest focus before this game is that Jill Ellis will surely release her final Olympic roster soon - perhaps in conjunction with the game itself. If she doesn’t, then the 18 players she names for this South Africa friendly will be a dead giveaway as to her intentions.
South Africa, also called Banyana Banyana, have not managed to qualify for a World Cup, but they played in the 2012 Olympics where they came last in group against Sweden, Japan, and Canada, managing one goal against Sweden by Portia Modise. They’ll be at the 2016 Olympics as well in Group E with Brazil, China PR, and Sweden again.
South Africa has slowly but steadily been climbing FIFA rankings over the past 10 years and you can probably expect an energetic and exciting match, but not necessarily a balanced one. Banyana Banyana played two games against the Netherlands in early June and managed to beat them 1-0 in the first game, then lost 2-0 in the second game. They’re capable of energetic defense and springing some of their talented strikers on goal, but the United States can probably dominate the midfield and control the tempo of the game.
“...that pressure from the USA will be something of a shock but then it's the only way to get used to it and to fight it through, to toughen up. It will be more or less a war on the pitch,” head coach Vera Pauw told the South African Football Association.
Players to watch:
For the United States, Carli Lloyd is back from injury and is available for selection. She’s a sure bet to make the Olympic 18 and Jill Ellis will want to knock off any rust during Lloyd’s longer-than-expected rehabilitation, which kept her off the pitch for her club, the Houston Dash. Don’t expect Megan Rapinoe to play; she won’t be available for selection even though Ellis has said she’s seen what she needs to from Rapinoe in practice.
Jill Ellis said she's looking to Carli Lloyd for "freshness" after rehab. Megan Rapinoe has been playing unrestricted, but has quad pull.— Julie Stewart-Binks (@JSB_FOX) July 8, 2016
For South Africa, keep an eye on midfielder Amanda Dlamini, who will likely get her 100th cap for her country in this game, on top of her 24 goals.
Time and TV schedule:
USA vs South Africa kicks off on Saturday, July 9 at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT and will air live in FS1.
Leave your match predictions and scorelines in the comments!