CAPE TOWN – Banyana Banyana are fast earning the respect of the football world and Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman is the latest to be impressed by the quality of the African Women’s Cup of Nations runners-up.
Wiegman watched Banyana closely on Saturday when her team did just enough to close out a 2-1 victory in the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Challenge match at Cape Town Stadium.
Apart from two early goals by the Dutch that rocked Banyana, the home side pressurised the European champions for long periods of the match. In fact, Banyana should have levelled the game but for Jermaine Seoposenwe missing a golden opportunity in the second half.
“It was a very good match for us to play South Africa a very organised team. What we wanted to do was see a lot of players give them minutes, with new combinations of players. It was very nice to play in this environment,” Wiegaman, who actually played against Banyana coach Desiree Ellis in 2000.
“They have improved their game we played them two years ago and we could see the improvement. They have very quick players and we are not used to playing against such pace so we had to adapt and that was good for us.”
The Dutch team’s physical strength certainly came to the fore in the first half when Sherida Spitse, in particular, was strong in the tackle and forced the home team to play plenty of aerials balls from the back.
It was only once Banyana settled down after Themba Kgatlana pulled a goal back from a Netherlands error did Ellis’ team start passing the ball around with greater fluidity.
“When we start playing one-touch football we looked 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.”
A further positive for Banyana was the performance of teenager Khabo Dhlamini. Ellis introduced the 17-year-old during the second half. Dhlamini looked very comfortable whenever she was in possession and even had a chance to bag an equaliser late in the game.
“She is a pure footballer great intelligence” Ellis said.
“She looked like a seasoned campaigner it’s really encouraging to see a youngster like that fit in so well.”
Banyana face Sweden tomorrow at 7pm at the Cape Town Stadium.@ZaahierAdams