Banyana star Thembi Kgatlana keeps Claudia Soto of Chile at bay in Santiago. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says the 2-2 draw against Chile in Santiago felt like a “win”, after the South Africans led twice and hit the post as well.

Banyana had lost the first match 2-1 in Vina del Mar on Saturday night, but came back fighting on Tuesday (Wednesday morning SA time) against a team who have already qualified for next year’s World Cup in France.

Refiloe Jane opened the scoring in the fifth minute, but Ambar Soruco levelled matters for the home side early in the second half.

Thembi Kgatlana then put the visitors back in front after the hour mark, but SA were unable to hold out for a famous victory as Javier Grez scored from another header with less than 10 minutes left.

“I felt we deserved to win. We created so many opportunities – we could’ve scored in the first minute. We got our tactics spot-on, and we had so much possession and they never threatened us,” Ellis said in an interview on the SA Football Association website.

“I don’t think the score-line is a true reflection of the game. A lot of decisions didn’t go our way, but I felt that we had a lot of cool heads out there who really played to instructions.

“We were prepared for any eventuality – I thought we were well-organised in defence and midfield as well. In attack, we were absolutely scintillating, but those are the chances you have to put away.

“Thembi had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper and hit the post, and on another day, it would’ve gone in and we would’ve had a different result.

“I would say a loss and a win, because we deserved to win this one and played so well. But very proud of the performance, and the players can be proud too.”

Now it’s all about picking a squad for the big one for Banyana – the African Women’s Championship in Ghana, which kicks off on November 17 and serves as the World Cup qualifier for Africa. The top three teams will advance to the ultimate stage in football in France.

The draw for the Afcon will take place on October 21. “A lot of players raised their hands. I was very impressed with Melinda (Kgadiete), after we sent her home from Cosafa because she wasn’t in good shape,” Ellis said.

“We still time to go into camp and prepare really well. But I reiterate what Dr (Danny) Jordaan said after the World Cup – we need to be in our best physical condition ever, because it shows we can compete on the physical side as we keep pushing back and fighting.

“Selection is always very difficult, as we can only select 21 players. We really have to look at our formations and multi-functional players.

“They’ve made it so difficult by their performances in these two games – maybe two or three spots still up for grabs. We need to look at some players who were not here and are coming back, as we need the best players.”

 

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