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High-flying Banyana Banyana have Burundi's Swallows in their sights

Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of their Womens Africa Cup of Nations match against Burundi

Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of their Womens Africa Cup of Nations match against Burundi. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jul 6, 2022

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Cape Town — High-flying South Africa's Banyana Banyana will cement a WAFCON quarter-final berth if they triumph against debutants Burundi in Thursday's Group C clash at Stade Prince Héritier Moulay El Hassanin Rabat, Morocco (start 7pm, SA time).

After Monday's dashing performance against Nigeria's Super Falcons, three more points will ensure Banyana will finish in the top two Group C positions, and that will automatically qualify the side for the knock-out phase.

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The other Group C team is Botswana, who opened their campaign on Monday with a 4-2 win over Burundi's Swallows.

Nigeria are expected to return to winning ways when they play their remaining Group C games against Botswana and Burundi. The form book suggests South Africa will top Group C, followed by Nigeria, after the group phase has been completed.

After Thursday's SA — Burundi clash, Nigeria play Botswana in a later kick-off at 9pm.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has said her team will not underestimate the opposition, which does not have a world ranking. Burundi has the youngest team at the tournament and three members of the squad are Under-17s.

After making their WAFCON debut on Monday, Burundi coach Gustave Niyonkuru feels his team will produce an improved performance against South Africa.

“This is a historic moment for us as a country to be playing at WAFCON, Even though we have lost the game (against Botswana), it gave us an insight into how we should approach our upcoming games against Nigeria and South Africa, who are more physical than Botswana,” said Niyonkuru.

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Ellis said straight after their opening match against Nigeria, the team started focussing on the Burundi clash.

“We will not underestimate any team," said Ellis. "This game (against Nigeria) is now behind us, and now we have a focus on our next opponent which is Burundi.

"We made sure that we plan and prepare well, and then it is up to the players to execute the plan.

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“Nothing changes (from the Nigeria game). We must do the same thing repeatedly. We must stay true to who we are. We need to keep the ball on the ground and move it around.

“We sat down at the beginning of the tournament and said what we want to achieve. We want to qualify for the World Cup, but we must take it one game at a time.

“We’ve got to stay focused; one step is out of the way, and now we must focus on the next one. We need to make sure we are ready for that encounter because we can’t underestimate anyone."

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South African footie fans can watch live television broadcasts of the match on SABC and SuperSport.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's hopes of claiming a 12th WAFCON title have suffered a crippling blow following an injury to their Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala who will have no further part in the tournament in Morocco.

The four-time ‘African Footballer of the Year’ award winner suffered an injury in the match against South Africa on Monday and post-match tests have revealed she suffered ligament damage.

The Nigerian Football Federation said she has returned to Spain for treatment.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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