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Banyana’s versatility key against Tunisia with World Cup spot in sight, says Ellis

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Wafcon glory will be placed on the backburner tonight when Banyana Banyana and Tunisia set their sights on the World Cup as victory will punch a ticket for the 2023 women’s global showpiece in Australia and New Zealand.

Banyana Banyana’s Nthabiseng Majiya could be the perfect replacement for the injured Thembi Kgatlana against Tunisia tonight. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Cape Town – Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) glory will be placed on the backburner tonight when South Africa and Tunisia set their sights on the World Cup as victory will punch a ticket for the 2023 women’s global showpiece in Australia and New Zealand.

With the newly expanded 32-team field, Caf have been assured of four slots at the tournament. It means the four victorious teams in the quarter-final round will reach the World Cup.

There will be two more slots up for grabs and the best two of the losing quarter-finalists will play in an inter-confederation play-off tournament, where the best three teams will advance to the World Cup.

Banyana Banyana, after many years of trying, finally made their World Cup debut in 2019. They failed to win a group match and after three matches managed a lone goal through Thembi Kgatlana, who will not be leading the team’s attack tonight as she has been withdrawn from the continental tournament due to injury.

Tunisia have never reached the women’s World Cup and after some excellent results this year, they will fancy their chances of upsetting the

South Africans who are fancied more than ever after defeating Nigeria for the second time in as many outings.

Although Tunisia won one group game, they registered wins against two-time African champions Equatorial Guinea and Egypt in the qualifying rounds, and SA’s technical staff would have picked up these impressive results.

Banyana have been robbed of their most potent attacking weapon after the withdrawal of Kgatlana, but the squad has the depth and should have adequate fire power upfront.

“Thembi is a big blow, but it is an opportunity for someone else to make the step up,” said Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.

ALSO READ: Desiree Ellis calls for new Banyana heroes to emerge at Wafcon

“We selected the squad for every eventuality, but we didn’t expect this, and now the versatility has got to come through.

“What I have seen in training has been encouraging.

“It’s the big one. It’s a quarter-final and there is no second chance. This is the game where you’ve got to give it your all to make sure that we reach our objective, which is obviously to qualify for the World Cup.”

Samir Landolsi, the Tunisian coach, said his young team had a short break after the group phase and their stay at Wafcon in Morocco had been a learning experience.

“Most of the players have never known the rhythm of such a (big) competition,” said Landolsi.

“They are still learning, and we had a few days to boost ourselves for the quarter-finals. We have put our strategy in place. We’ve burned two jokers, only the victory card now counts.”

It is very likely that Nthabiseng Majiya, the youngest player in the Banyana squad, will be thrown in at the deep end following Kgatlana’s withdrawal. Majiya has been impressive off the bench and may have done enough to warrant a place in the starting team.

The experienced Sweden-based Linda Motlhalo can also lead the attack, and has already scored a goal in Morocco.

@Herman_Gibbs

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