“She could’ve had a second and a third, and was always a danger. She has unbelievable talent,” said Banyana coach Desiree Ellis on Thembi Kgatlana. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis bemoaned the missed opportunities in their Women’s World Cup opener against Spain, but promised that they will be ready to get the better of China.

The South Africans got off to the best possible start in their maiden World Cup when Thembi Kgatlana produced a stunning long-range strike to open the scoring.

But Kgatlana and others missed a few chances, and Spain clawed their way back into the game, eventually winning 3-1 – with two of their goals coming from penalties in Le Havre.

But now Banyana will move on to Paris to take on the Chinese at the Parc des Princes on Thursday night (9pm SA time kickoff), where they need to clinch victory to stay in the hunt in Group B.

China lost their first game 1-0 to Germany, so they will also be desperate for the three points.

“We started really well. Goals win games, and you’ve got to take your opportunities when you get it. We got a fantastic first goal, and we could’ve been 2-0 up. Then they got two penalties, which is part of the game,” Ellis said after the Spanish encounter.

“Thembi is a special player. You know what to expect, and sometimes you cannot stop it. It was similar to the goal against Nigeria in the African Championships.

“She could’ve had a second and a third, and was always a danger. She has unbelievable talent.”

Ellis was particularly pleased about the fact that her players didn’t suffer from stage fright on the biggest platform in the sport, and she feels confident that they can go a step further against China.

“We spoke about some players being overwhelmed, but there was none of that. We took the game to them, and the people back home can be very proud of the performance,” she said.

“We know our strengths, and analysed China, our next opponents. But we also need to absorb the moment, this being our first time at the World Cup.

“This team is always ready for the next game. We will have a look at our opponents, and see whether we need to change personnel or not.

“That is now obviously our final – it’s a must-win. With this performance, we can only get better. The nerves and anxiousness are now out of the way. We have to win the next game to have a chance of going through to the next round.”

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