Banyana Banyana will have to be on top of their game against Africa’s best, says coach Desiree Ellis
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JOHANNESBURG - BANYANA Banyana coach Desiree says her team will have to be on top of their game when they face the highest-ranked team in Africa, Nigeria, in their final game of the Aisha Buhari Cup at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, today.
Banyana thumped rivals and the fourth-ranked side in Africa, Ghana, 3-0 in their opener on Friday. That win was inspired by a strong team, which was made up of local and overseas-based players.
But the South Africans will be hoping to end their campaign with a 100% record when they clash with the Super Falcons. Hosts Nigerians, though, are also looking for back-to-back wins after beating Mali in their opening match last week.
“We’ve got more footage of Nigeria playing in the other matches. We had to look at all that and analyse because it’s different oppositions. We had to get the plan right. It’s difficult to play in front of your home supporters because of pressure,” Ellis said.
“Their two goals against Mali were late. But we know what they are capable of. They are not the No 1 team in Africa for nothing. They showed their pedigree for some time. We really have to be on top of our game and ensure that we stay concentrated.”
The Aisha Buhari Cup is serving as preparations for Banyana who will be eager to defend their Cosafa Cup crown later this month in Gqeberha, before playing Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers later this year.
Ellis has named a strong 20-player squad for the Cosafa Cup, which includes captain Janine van Wyk. But in order to increase their chances of having a successful campaign in Gqeberha, Banyana will need to take inspiration from the Aisha Buhari Cup.
“We are always looking at playing other players. Always give other players an opportunity, but we are always looking at winning the game. We also want to go there and put our best line-up on the field, hopefully try to make changes from there,” Ellis said.
Banyana will be without most of their overseas-based players for the Cosafa Cup as they would have returned to their clubs. These include Thembi Kgatlana (Spain), Refiloe Jane (Italy), Lebohang Ramalepe (Belarus), Linda Motlhalo and Hildah Magaia (both Sweden).
Kgatlana who plays for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid was among the goals, alongside Magaia and Sibulele Holweni, when Banyana trashed the Ghanaians. Kgatlana said it’s always good to face top team in Africa.
“It’s always good to face top teams. As the coach said, ‘we haven’t played in a long time’. We’ve had a couple of overseas-based players who came and joined the team. We have a very long calendar: preparing for Afcon and World Cup (qualifiers),” Kgatlana said.
“In 2024, it’s the Olympics. Because of Covid-19, everything is squeezed and getting a first match against Ghana, we had to make sure that we scored. Playing in Europe makes me a better player, and if I get a call-up to play for (the) national team, I have to help the team.”