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Banyana coach proud of the fight shown by her girls

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There were positives from Banyana’s game-plan as they showed minimal respect for La Roja’s defence with their quick feet up front.

South Africas Thembi Kgatana celebrates scoring the first goal during the preliminary round match between Spain and South Africa at the FIFA Womens World Cup 2019 in Le Havre, France, 08 June 2019. Picture: EPA-EFE/PETER POWELL .

Despite opening their maiden Fifa Women’s World Cup campaign with a defeat to Spain, Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is proud of her team’s performance in the global event so far.

The South Africans got off to a flying start at Stade Oceane on Saturday as they grabbed the bulls by the horns, taking the lead through an audacious strike from the reigning queen of African Football, Thembi Kgatlana (pictured).

However, the wheels came off for Ellis’ troops in the second half, when they conceded two penalties that were converted by Jennifer Hermoso, and Lucia Garcia sealed the deal for the Spaniards with a clinical finish from close range.

There were, however, positives from Banyana’s game-plan as they showed minimal respect for La Roja’s defence with their quick feet up front.

As a result, Ellis believes that had they been clinical in front of goal, they’d have probably achieved the improbable.

“I don’t think in all essence it’s a really fair result. I felt we could have gotten more and maybe we should have gotten more, but I am still very proud of the team,” said Ellis after the game.

“I’ve always said that goals will win you matches.

“When you’ve got an opportunity you’ve got to take it.

“We were very organised even though they had a lot of possession, they struggled to break us down.

“On the counter, we always looked dangerous, but if don’t take your chances that’s your result.

“But I am very proud of the team, they put up a great performance.”

The Spaniards needed the Video Assistant Referee system to get their two penalties.

In its review decision, skipper Janine van Wyk was judged to have committed a handball offence, while the second offence had Nothando Vilakazi sent off following a harsh tackle inside the box.

“We showed the fighting spirit that this team is known for.

Stay disciplined

“We’ll have a look at the footage and see (the incident that resulted in Vilakazi being sent off), but (VAR) decisions are here to stay. We have to stay disciplined,” noted Ellis.

The South Africans will now shift their focus to the their next Group B encounter against China, who also suffered a huge blow in their opener against Germany.

The Asians were the better side of the two but that counted for nothing as the Europeans grabbed a narrow 1-0 win.

For the South Africans, not all is lost either. They head into their encounter against China with a huge morale-booster considering that Kgatlana got off her mark by scoring her sixth goal in six matches for the national team.

“Thembi is a special player, you know what to expect,” Ellis said. “It’s a similar fantastic goal that she scored in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations tournament against Nigeria. If anyone was going to score a goal, it was going to be Thembi.

“It was a fantastic goal for South Africa at the World Cup.

“She’s come here and set some goals for herself. She could have had a second, a third, but that’s how the game goes.”