Ellis: Banyana need to reverse their downward scale
JOHANNESBURG – With Banyana Banyana at their lowest after crashing out of the Olympic qualifiers, coach Desiree Ellis believes it will be crucial that they quickly put their recent disappointment behind them.
On paper, it was a year that was supposed to be the most exciting for women’s football in the country, but instead there have been more downfalls than positives.
On Tuesday, South Africa’s aspirations of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games ended when they lost 3-2 on aggregate after penalties against the Zebras of Botswana.
Banyana qualified for their maiden Fifa Women’s World Cup in June, but in football's biggest competition they lost all three group stage matches to Spain, China and Germany.
Those disappointing outings in major tournaments have overshadowed their positives - their recent record sixth Cosafa Championship victory will not make up for the poor results.
“We haven’t won many games this year. We’ve played a lot of the top nations to prepare for the World Cup, where we started well (but lost our footing midway through). But I think that we’ve done fairly well,” Ellis said.
“Now, it’s time for us to show character. But to put it in a scale, we have not done well this year. Not winning against (Botswana), it’s a downward scale, we need to regroup and look forward to the future.”
Banyana’s biggest downfall has been the inability to convert chances up front. However, Ellis’ troops appeared to have turned a new leaf during the recent Cosafa Championship by scoring 23 goals in five matches, but that proved to be a false alarm.
Against the Zebras, that weakness was exploited as they failed to convert away and home. However, Ellis said that failing to score is a national tragedy that should be fixed by both males and females in the Premier Soccer League and National Women’s Soccer League.
“Look, we’ve been working on our finishing,” Ellis said.
“It comes with confidence and players working outside of camp. Camp is only a week, and we have to prepare the team in all aspects of the game. But everybody has to do their part, coaches out there have to help us in doing finishing.
“Sometimes, in the Sasol League it’s so easy to score when no one is challenging you and you are not put under pressure. I don’t think that it’s a Banyana problem but for all the national teams.”
Meanwhile, Banyana legend Portia Modise, who was disgruntled by Banyana’s loss to the Zebras, believes that Ellis could do better with her team selection.
In the return leg at Orlando Stadium, Ellis started Leandra Smeda, who’s a natural central midfielder, in the wingback role ahead of Nothando Vilakazi, who’s dominated the position in the last eight years.
“We didn’t have a structure and direction in our game,” Modise said. “Yes, we miss goals. But putting Leandra Smeda as a left back, while you have Vilakazi on the bench, was unbelievable.
“The coach must get her story right, because Botswana is not in our level. This is not a team that was supposed to give us a tough time.”@Mihlalibaleka