CAPE TOWN – Desiree Ellis has a favourite saying “with all due respect to Botswana and Lesotho”.
Without trying to sound condescending to the two Southern African teams, Ellis is simply trying to stress the point that Banyana Banyana will face much-higher ranked opposition over the coming months where the smallest of errors are capitalised on and that her own team needs to make the most of opportunities that come their way during 90 minutes.
On Saturday at a festive Cape Town Stadium, where over 15 000 people came out in support of Banyana, Ellis’ fears proved prophetic in the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Challenge against the Netherlands. Despite the African Women’s Cup of Nations runners-up dominating for long periods of the game, particularly in the second half, they still lost 2-1.
It was certainly a promising display, particularly due to the strength of the opposition who are the current European champions, but at the World Cup in June and July such a sterling performance will be meaningless as they will not have any points to show for their efforts.
Banyana will need to take better care of possession after the opening whistle is sounded, particularly as they conceded in the third and 19th minutes to leave the home team trailing by two goals before a quarter of the match had been completed.
“We started off really badly conceded and then conceded again” Ellis said. “When you play against the top teams they will punish you. When you play against the likes of with all due respect Botswana and Lesotho you can get away with that. We panic a bit at times when we need to settle down.”
There is no doubt that Ellis and her charges would have learnt valuables lessons from the defeat, and also hopefully be encouraged by the brand of football they can play once the anxiety within the ranks settle down.
Banyana’s chief attacking weapon is undoubtedly the pace of Thembi Kgatlana upfront, although right-back Nothando Vilakazi and the classy midfielder Linda Motlhalo provide further attacking options through their inventive and slick passing down the flanks.
“When we start playing one-touch football we look in command of what we want to do but when you play against a team like the Netherlands that has top players in the top leagues you know it is going to be a big challenge and that is what we wanted from this game,” Ellis said.
“We want to move the ball quicker and our movement needs to be better. But I was very pleased with the performance overall. There were a lot of positives so early in the year.”
Banyana will have a chance to rectify their mistakes when they face another fellow World Cup finalist, Sweden, tomorrow at Cape Town Stadium at 7pm.@ZaahierAdams