Blip against Zambia may just be the right girl medicine to wake Banyana Banyana up ahead of the semi-finals
BANYANA Banyana’s failure to achieve a perfect march to the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations was somewhat of a blessing in disguise.
The South African senior women’s national team booked their place in the last four of the continental showpiece courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Zambia, following earlier victories over Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.
And while they have topped the group, Saturday’s bump will ensure Desiree Ellis’ team do not get carried away.
The coach admitted this much during her post match conference in Ghana.
“We said from the beginning that there will be no easy games. We did not play well today, but this (draw) is a good blip because we got it now and we are through to the semi-final,” Ellis said.
“It gives us a chance to regroup and work on a few things and get the group motivated again before the next match.”
Ellis was also pleased at her team having been the best in their stream.
“We’ve played in these kind of competitions before but to top the group is a rarity. We came into the match not wanting to avoid a loss and perhaps that is what affected the players a bit.”
That though is neither here nor there as Banyana are through to the knockout phase with their sights now set on Mali.
“It’s like a final for us now. It’s do or die. One game to go. Win that and we are through to the World Cup. That has been our motivation, our ultimate goal.”
The top three sides at the tournament taking place in Ghana will represent the continent at next year’s global showpiece in France, and Banyana are looking for their maiden appearance on the ultimate stage.
“Of course as coaches we would like to have the perfect match and this one was not. But we are still in it. The important thing is that we managed to grind out a result and it is good that we were able to do that when we were not playing well.”
It had actually looked like they would do to their neighbours what they did to the previous opposition in the competition.
Thembi Kgatlana put them ahead with a seventh-minute strike, her fourth goal of the tournament, that earned her a third player of the match award.
But Banyana went to sleep and allowed Zambia to equalise almost immediately.
From there on it was a cat and mouse fight as the teams chased each other, looking for the winning goal that never came.
Ellis lamented the lapse in concentration and warned her team against making such errors going forward.
“We have to be on top of our game throughout. We cannot settle down for one minute, and we will underestimate any team at our own peril.
“Today was a tough game between neighbours, no sisterly love on the pitch,” she added.
With their next match against Mali back in the Cape Coast, where they had that historical second win over the Super Falcons and the 7-1 mauling of Equatorial Guinea, Banyana will be confident of earning their first ever ticket to the World Cup.
But Mali will be no pushovers and the good thing is that Ellis is well aware of this fact.