JOHANNESBURG - Desiree Ellis says Banyana Banyana will need to be vigilant in defence when they lock horns with Zambia on Thursday as failure to do so might see them fall short of reaching their goal of winning this year’s Cosafa Women’s Championship.
Banyana booked their place in the semi-finals of the regional tournament after topping their group with seven points from their outings following a 1-1 draw against Botswana on Sunday.
In that match, Ellis’ charges struggled horribly in front of goal, this after the Banyana interim coach had opted to make eight changes from her winning starting line-up from their past two games, resting her key players.
Ellis said this was the only way she could have her side fully refreshed leading up to facing a side which scored 14 goals, conceding just five, in their Group A outings.
“It’s going to be a big pressure match, that’s for sure,” Ellis said. “We just need to be on top of our game if we are going to win. Doing that will help us with creating a whole lot of scoring opportunities early on, which will be key in seeing us settling down quite early in that match. If we execute our game plan really well, then I believe we’ll walk away as winners.
“For sure,” Ellis added. “Zambia will go into this encounter having scored a lot of goals from their group stage matches (as compared to us). However, that doesn’t worry us one bit. And that’s because this group of players have shown they’ve got whole lot of mental strength to win (key) matches.
"And most people tend to forget that this is almost a whole new squad compared to a team we played with earlier this year. We’ve made about 10 changes from the squad which last played back in January.”
Meanwhile Ellis expressed disappointment over some of her players' performances in the match against Botswana, saying the majority of them failed to raise their hands for future Banyana selection.
The coach also stated that their last three matches gave her an idea on how to line-up her charges to push for that desired win in the upcoming match.
“We already have an idea of what kind of team we are going to line-up for our game against Zambia,” Ellis said. “We played back-to-back matches, and there was no way the team which I had lined up in our first two games would have coped with the demands of playing three full competitive matches in a space of four days. Doing that was going to effect us very badly going into the semis.
"We thought to ourselves as the technical staff: ‘What would be the point of winning all your group stage matches and then fail to progress beyond the semis because we failed to give key players a rest?'
“We’ve rested the core of our key players leading up to this tie, and I can safely say we’re fresh now for this match-up,” Ellis said. “We’re only a game away from reaching the final and we need to go out there and push for that crucial win. I believe that the girls can do it."
"It was also quite disappointing that the majority of the players we put out in our last group match, could not rise up to the occasion in a match that they could have easily won. We struggled to score.”