Banyana Banyana looking to step up a gear in semi-final against Malawi
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Cape Town – The South African national women's team Banyana Banyana will be looking to step a gear when they take on Malawi's Scorchers in the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship semi-final at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha on Thursday (kick-off 3.30pm).
Banyana Banyana secured their semi-final berth after winning Group A. Malawi made into the semis by the skin of their teeth after they were judged the best runners-up in the three groups. Thursday's semi-final is a repeat of the opening Group A contest, which Banyana Banyana won 2-1.
The South Africans would not have been too pleased with that performance since they desperately held out for victory after Malawi staged a strong fightback in the closing stages. Banyana Banyana scored two first-half goals and were unable to find the net in the second stanza.
This performance will inspire confidence in the ranks of the Scorchers, more so after they have been more prolific in front of opposition goals than Banyana Banyana. Malawi scored six goals – one more than South Africa, in three group matches.
Hosts Banyana Banyana, the defending champions, were playing in second gear in their final group match against Mozambique but ran out 3-1 winners. Banyana Banyana overwhelmed Mozambique at the start and threatened an avalanche of goals, However, it did not materialise because they looked like they were out enjoying a training session.
Banyana Banyana's brainstrust will also be reflecting on last year’s semi-final when they also played Malawi. They ran out 6-2 winners after both teams failed to score in the second half.
Banyana Banyana is the only top 100 nation in the FIFA women's world rankings featuring at this tournament. They should be too strong for Malawi but since Banyana Banyana will be without their overseas-based players, the team could be vulnerable.
Captain Janine van Wyk will, howeve,r be at the helm, and she is capable of ensuring the team retains its focus.
What Banyana Banyana needs is a high-energy, high-quality performance and one in which every player stood up to be counted. The team has enjoyed strong starts but often has not capitalised.
A feature of Malawi's playing style is that they are capable of striking from range. This has resulted in their six goals being scored by six different players. Their game plan revolves around key players like Zainab Kapanda, Ireen Khumalo, Limbikani Chikupira, Wezzie Mvula and Madyina Nguluwe, who form the backbone of the team.
South Africa has won seven of the eight editions of the competition. This squad can ensure the team will reach the final and give it a chance to continue its domination of this regional championship.