JOHANNESBURG – Only the best from Banyana Banyana will do if they are to earn their maiden ticket to the World Cup.
South Africa’s senior national women’s team are in the semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations currently ongoing in Ghana and will take on Mali in Cape Coast on Tuesday.
Win that match and Desiree Ellis’s team will be among the world’s best in the global showpiece in France next year.
Ellis knows though that the West Africans will take some beating.
“We have to be at our absolute best against Mali. They knocked out the hosts, which is no mean feat because Ghana are a quality side. For Mali to beat them shows they are a good team and we will not underestimate them because we would do that at our own peril.”
Ellis was speaking just after Banyana’s 1-1 draw with Zambia in Accra on Saturday, a result that was a blip on their stunning group showing which saw them beat Nigeria 1-0 and hammer Equatorial Guinea 7-1.
Banyana have been here before though, and came unstuck. Will that have an impact on this group?
Ellis seems to believe the history will affect her team in a positive way.
“For a lot of players in the squad this is the last opportunity to go to the World Cup. A few of them were at the 2014 tournament where we played the Ivory Coast and had the opportunities and we did not take them,” Ellis said of Banyana’s third-place play-off defeat which saw them miss out on the World Cup.
“That result hurt a lot and the girls are keen to avoid another.”
To do that though they will have to be alert throughout the match and avoid the kind of concentration lapse which saw them concede the equaliser against Zambia almost immediately after Thembi Kgatlana had put them ahead.
Ellis lamented her team’s failure to stay on their toes and warned her team against making such errors going forward.
“We cannot settle down for one minute and we will underestimate any team at our own peril. Zambia was a tough game, no sisterly love on the pitch.”@Tshiliboy