Home Sport Banyana praised by Ellis after showing the grit to qualify for Wafcon

Banyana praised by Ellis after showing the grit to qualify for Wafcon

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Picture: Nigel Keene, ProSportsImages, DPPI via AFP

Banyana Banyana’s coach Desiree Ellis lauded her troops’ mentality after qualifying for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco next year.

Banyana beat Burkina Faso 2-0 in the second leg of the Wafcon qualifier at home on Monday (3-1 on aggregate) after the first leg ended in a 1-1 draw on Thursday last week.

But while the victory, which was inspired by goals from Linda Motlhalo and Nicole Michaela, largely meant that Banyana will defend their crown next year, there was more to it.

Banyana’s longest-serving captain Janine van Wyk etched her name in the history books, becoming the highest capped international player in Africa with 185 caps.

ALSO READ: It was never about accolades, but Van Wyk happy to bow out on a high

At first it didn’t seem as though Banyana would have it easy in Atteridgeville given signs of fatigue after long hours of travel, but Ellis was proud of her team’s fight in the end.

“When it was 2-0, we knew that the game was over. We are just happy that we qualified. The travel wasn’t fantastic but the players showed resilience,” Ellis said.

“It was a great fight from the players. It’s been a long season. We played Wednesday and Saturday, and there were five hours of bus travel. But they stuck it out and showed true grit.

“That’s what champions do: when it matters most, they come through for the team. Congratulations to the team and everyone that was part of the match today.”

For Banyana to have won two games and drawn two in the last four is really remarkable given challenges such as visa issues, injuries and exam schedules.

But Ellis believes that the blend of senior players and youngsters has worked wonders for the team as they want to make the core group even bigger.

“We’ve got a lot of players missing but we’ve got the core group. Look at the players that were not even in the squad,” Ellis explained.

“There were young ones on the pitch – including Fikile Magama and Noxolo Cesane – so it’s not only about now. We always want to make sure that we make the core group bigger.

“The experience that they gained is second to none.

“We practically had to dig deep to put the team together. Karabo (Dhlamini) also plays at centre back and that shows a lot of versatility.”

Banyana’s primary focus at Wafcon next year is to defend their title. However, there will be a lot at stake in 2026 as they’ll use the continental event as qualifiers for the 2027 World Cup.

With Ellis’ contract coming to an end next year, it’s alleged that she’s yet to agree to new terms with Safa. Ellis, though, has a plan through 2026 whether she’s still in charge or not.

“That augurs well for the team. Come 2026 – whether I am here or not – there’s a core group that’s developing.

“We’ve already made a list of players to look at to get ready for 2027,” she said.

“And a lot of these players have to play at Wafcon next year to get ready for 2026 and help us qualify for the World Cup in 2027, especially now that we are no longer bidding for the World Cup.”

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