JOHANNESBURG – Following their 2-2 draw in their opening Cyprus Women’s Cup (CWC) match against Finland, Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is adamant that her troops will need to execute their game plan when they cross paths with North Korea in the second round of matches in Group A today.
After the first round, the North Koreans lead the group with maximum points following a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic - making them favourites to advance to the final stage.
But Ellis, who propelled her team to a sixth-place finish at the previous tournament, is not willing to go down without a fight. The 55-year-old coach is well aware that if they are to put in a fight at the Women’s World Cup, they need to hold their own against renowned nations such as North Korea - who are ranked 11th in the world.
“They (the matches) come thick and fast, and now we’ve got to be mentally switched on,” said Ellis who is using the CWC as preparations for their maiden global showpiece. “We’ve also got to show character because we are playing a much higher ranked team, but we’ve played them before and I don’t think that they are going to change much. It will be important not only to get the game plan right, but to also execute it.”
The clash between Banyana and the Finns also marked the 100th international cap for deputy captain Refiloe Jane - who made her national team debut at the CWC in 2012. However this time in Cyprus where the team are meant to work on their combinational play for France, Ellis gave starting berths to teenage sensations Karabo Dhlamini, who recently played at the Under-17 World Cup with Bantwana, while Tiisetso Makhubela made her second start for the senior national team since featuring in the pre-African Women’s Cup of Nations friendly against Ghana.
“I thought Tiisetso started slowly but later in the game looked like a season campaigner,” Ellis said. “For Karabo, it was a bit difficult coming from the Under-17 World Cup where the level is not as intense. She had a decent stint, but she could have been over odds but at times she needed to be stronger. We expected a lot from our players especially someone such Karabo, but I am sure she’ll grow.”
There’s merely three months to go to the global showpiece, but there’s quite a number of things that Banyana still need to work on - and one of those is the ability to turn up the heat on the opposition from the first whistle.
In their last three games, they’ve conceded four goals - while all the three that they have scored were equalisers. Their World Cup opponents China, Germany and Spain won’t allow them to come back into the game.
“We cannot consistently make the same mistakes where we don’t pick up, because teams at a higher level will punish us,” Ellis said. “We’ve just got to react quicker, and track players better.”@Mihlalibaleka