Spain's Lucia Garcia scores their third goal. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana may have been on the losing side in their Women’s World Cup opener, but there were a number of positives they can take from their performance.

On Saturday, the South Africans went down 3-1 to Spain in their Group B opener at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France.

Banyana grabbed the bull by the horns, taking a precious lead through a delightful curler from their golden girl Thembi Kgatlana in the first half. They continued to search for a second goal, but their defence was punished by a relentless Spanish attack.

Coach Desiree Ellis’ troops conceded two penalties that Jennifer Hermoso converted, while Lucia Garcia rounded off the scoring with a calm finish from close range. But if there is anything to take out from the encounter, it is that Ellis’ troops can pull a rabbit out of the hat.

Playing with confidence, and not allowing their nerves of making a maiden World Cup appearance get to them is the only way that Banyana can make sure that they are not in the competition merely to make up the numbers.

The South Africans mastered their approach by being offensive as trio Kgatlana, Ode Fulutidulu and Linda Motlhalo were leading the pack.

The striking trio are based overseas, another plus for the team considering that they will bring their experience and knowledge about Banyana’s counterparts.

South Africa's Bambanani Mbane, left, congratulates teammate South Africa's Thembi Kgatlana after she scored the first goal against Spain. Photo: AP Photo/Francisco Seco
South Africa's Bambanani Mbane, left, congratulates teammate South Africa's Thembi Kgatlana after she scored the first goal against Spain. Photo: AP Photo/Francisco Seco

The suspension of Nothando Vilkazi may force Ellis to adjust her plan in midfield. But with Leandra Smeda and Mamello Makhabane still available for selection, that shouldn’t be a major headache for Ellis. Add to the fact that, on the flanks, the experience that’s brought by Lebohang Ramalepe and Kholosa Biyana has so far proven to work like a charm.

Banyana’s defensive unit will have to get their act together in their next match against China on Thursday, if they are to go far in the tournament. Utility player Noko Matlou got a surprise start at centre-back ahead of Bambanani Mbane.

Matlou’s partnership with skipper Janine van Wyk had its moments on Saturday, but there are holes that need to be fixed if Banyana are to keep a clean sheet and progress to the knockout stages.

@Mihlalibaleka

 

The Star

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