Andile Dlamini during the Banyana Training on the 26 October 2020 at Fun Valley. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Andile Dlamini during the Banyana Training on the 26 October 2020 at Fun Valley. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

How Banyana can tame Zebras to hold on to Cosafa crown

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Nov 14, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Banyana Banyana will play neighbours Botswana in the 2020 Cosafa Women’s Championship final at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium today (kick-off 3pm).

Soccer writer Herman Gibbs believes that if the national women’s team can focus on tightening these five areas, they will retain their Cosafa Cup crown:

Banyana Banyana will do well to improve their individual marking. In the semi-final against Malawi, Banyana allowed the dangerous Chawinga sisters Tabitha and Temwa too much latitude to move. The two Malawi internationals posed a threat whenever in possession, and they came close to inflicting early damage, which could have changed the course of the game.

Botswana does not have individuals to match the playing ability of the Chawinga sisters, but they are a formidable unit. Hence there won’t be a need to focus fully on a key player but rather keep all the opposition players on a tight rein.

Be alert when the player you’re marking moves into spaces when they are not in possession. It might be a ploy to disrupt your team’s shape. Good marking calls for athleticism, so Banyana must guard against slacking off later in the match.

Banyana have shown in patches that they are highly capable of producing a crisp inter-passing game. However, this feature is not always evident in their play.

In the early group matches against Angola and eswatini, they produced delightful passages of play on the back of short passes. Often it proved penetrative, particularly down the wide channels. However, they must resist the temptation of trying to clear their defensive lines while trying to stage attacks from deep options.

First-time clearances are a safer option than risking passes in the goalmouth. First-time clearances also help to transfer play to the opposition’s half of the field. The final will be played on the expansive Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium surface and the team will do well by letting the ball do the work. Passing should be a key part of the team strategy.

The level of fitness in the team may account for the absence of a player tasked with a midfield holding role since it is a job for a workhorse.

Coach Desiree Ellis has repeatedly said since the start of the tournament, that the team has been shaking off the effects of months of inactivity. However, a few matches in quick succession has helped to boost endurance capacity.

The player tasked with the midfield holding role will be responsible for breaking down opposition attacks in its early stages. Preferably, this player must offer physicality and that helps to disrupt the rhythm of opposition sorties. The player must make a nuisance of herself.

Up to now, we’ve seen defenders overlap on the flanks when Banyana switch to attack mode. A holding midfielder would have been back in defence to thwart a possible counter-attack.

Banyana’s defence was never really tested this week and this prompted coach Ellis to say that the goalkeepers were like spectators.

The notable exception was the semi-final against Malawi and goalkeeper Andile Dlamini pulled off two great saves, thanks to her reaction skills. She was, however, guilty of a rookie error when she failed to deal with a long-range scoring effort by Malawi captain Tabitha Chawinga out wide in the left channels.

Once Chawinga had struck the ball goalwards, Dlamini should have taken up a position at the far post. Instead, she remained rooted to the ground at the near post and the ball sailed over her outstretched hands into the goals.

This Banyana team is a young one and there’s a lot of pace up front and the goalkeeper’s goal kick, especially when it is deep, can create goalscoring opportunities if the defence does not clear adequately.

Nowadays, defence is the first order of business when preparing for a match. Solid defence will ensure that opponents cannot score goals.

This week, according to the statistics, Banyana did fairly well although that does not tell you much about the quality of the opposition.

On occasions, the opposition stretched Banyana’s defensive line by attacking down the wings and trying to round the rearguard out wide.

In the group encounters, Botswana had a penchant for breaking teams down the middle and this is something that Banyana’s technical staff would have picked up, and come up with a counter.

There is also the matter of Banyana’s defenders being on the short side and a barrage of aerial attacks in quick succession may just prove unsettling.

Defenders can stifle this threat by cutting down the supply chain to the players who are likely to produce goalmouth crosses.

@Herman_Gibbs

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