ACCRA – South Africa’s national women's side Banyana Banyana's finally tasted defeat at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations when they lost 4-3 on penalties to defending champions Nigeria in the final at the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday evening.
It was the first time Banyana ended up on the losing side at the event after they defeated Nigeria 1-0 in their first clash just over a week ago.
The post-match mood in Banyana's camp and the sentiments expressed by their coach Desiree Ellis suggests the squad were still buoyed by the fact that as tournament finalists they have clinched a ticket to next year's Fifa Women's World Cup in France.
Despite their failure to win the title, Ellis could not hide her admiration for her charges.
"First of all I will like to congratulate Nigeria for winning the title for a record nine times," said Ells.
"They have been a powerhouse of African women’s football for quite a while now and continue to dominate.
"My team did their best, I mean, we knew that Nigeria was going to come hard at us in the game and they did throughout.
"We had some early chances that I think we should have buried, but in all, it was a very good exercise for us going into the World Cup. The impact we have made at this competition as a country is immense.
"Last night our president (Cyril Ramaphosa) who is in Argentina called us and spoke to the girls and so did other South African officials.
"The tournament has been very exciting for us as a nation because since we landed, everywhere we went people showed us love and the fans have been amazing so far, just that I feel more can be done to create more awareness for Women’s football in Africa.
"The journey has been good. We came here with the vision of qualifying for the World Cup because we knew it was now poor never and indeed we achieved that.
"Winning the trophy would have been a bonus but we gave it our all, but you know that the penalty shoot-out is a game of lottery and we couldn’t capitalize on Nigeria first.
"So, all in all, we are content with our tournament here."
Nigeria's victorious coach Thomas Dennerby said his team's defence was at the heart of their championship-winning campaign.
"It’s been a wonderful tournament for us. I must commend the organizers for everything. Everything has been good, the hotels, buses training pitches and even the fans. We are happy with the general coordination.
"Let me also congratulate Desiree Ellis for a wonderful contribution she has impacted on current African women’s football. You won a medal and that is a plus for you and your team.
"The game was very tough in all aspects and South Africa showed character and they did their best to get yet another victory but today our team was more compact.
"This was the best passing game we’ve had in the tournament and the defence were alert on the day, so I must commend the entire team for a good job well done. We are happy once again and we will go back, celebrate and start preparing for the World Cup next year.
"Going forward I think women’s football in Africa is fast improving and very soon it will rival the men’s competition in terms of support and interest."