JOHANNESBURG – The difference in the mood inside the Banyana Banyana change room at full time, compared with half-time - in their 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Norway in Amiens, France, on Sunday, gives coach Desiree Ellis some hope going into the World Cup.
Ellis revealed that Banyana players cut dejected figures at half-time as they trailed the European side 5-0 in their last friendly before the global showpiece.
Banyana scored two goals in the second half, but so did Norway, who gave the side a rude awakening going into what will be a tough tournament in their maiden World Cup appearance.
Banyana will start their campaign against Spain on Sunday at Le Havre before taking on China on June 13. They will end their Group B matches against Germany on June 17.
A smallanyana welcome ceremony for @Banyana_Banyana as they arrive in Le Havre, France for their 1st match of the 2019 @FIFAWWC on Saturday 8 June #FIFAWWC #BanyanaBanyana #LeMomentDeBriller @SAFA_net #DareToShine pic.twitter.com/4oDBS5wNrM— Banyana_Banyana (@Banyana_Banyana) June 3, 2019
“It wasn’t a good day at the office,” Ellis said as she explained the loss. “There were a few circumstances that led to that.
“A trip that should have taken one-and-a-half hours ended up taking way more than that. We left Le Havre at 5pm and ended up getting here (Amiens) at 8:45pm and the match started at 9:15pm.
“Everything was rushed. We had to have a short warm-up. But despite that, we still could have done much better.
“We still had to do our task better. Some of the goals we conceded were really poor. We spoke about who were going to be their danger players and we didn’t really pick them up. We were very loose at times in our defending, not picking up players and not tracking.
On the plus side though, we scored two good goals and we have a couple of opportunities as well. But we still need to look at ourselves. We spoke about minimising the mistakes yet tonight we had many mistakes.”
A defeat like this could demoralise the side in a group where they are expected to finish at the bottom as their opponents are on a higher level.
“They put up a big fight in the second half,” Ellis said. “At half-time when we walked into the change room, all their heads were down and we shared what we needed to improve on, what we needed to do better.
“Then when we went out, we were better. We did everything better. Our support was better, so was our defending and forays into their final third.
“We scored two goals which we haven’t done for a very long time. That was the most important thing, coming back into the second half and having the spirit we displayed. It was a morale booster at the end.”
Ellis continued: “Yes, the results were not what we were looking for, but the fighting spirit we showed in the second half shows that we’ve got guts and character.
“We have to sustain that for the full 90 minutes. We wanted to win really badly to get momentum going into the World Cup, but when we entered the change room after the match, there were more heads that were up because they showed what they were capable of.”
1, 2, 3 yes just three days remaining to the start of the @FIFAWWC in France as Nothando Vilakazi confirms @Banyana_Banyana @SAFA_net @BafanaBafana #DareToShine #fifawwc #BanyanaBanyana #LeMomentDeBriller pic.twitter.com/pVE4pm5ber— Banyana_Banyana (@Banyana_Banyana) June 4, 2019
This loss stretched Banyana’s winless streak since they qualified for the World Cup to nine games, following a disappointing run in the Cyprus Cup as well as failure to register wins over USA and Jamaica.
“It’s a big concern, but we haven’t been playing easy games either,” Ellis said. “The one game that was winnable was the Jamaica game. Against the USA it was always going to be tough and in the Cyprus Cup we had good opportunities to win.
“But if you don’t take your chances, you get punished. That’s a lesson we have to learn.”