Banyana Banyana coach Desirée Ellis has called for an improved performance when South Africa and neighbours Botswana battle it out in their last group stage match of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday.
Banyana are already through to the quarterfinals of the tournament after a 3-1 win over Burundi at the Stade Prince Moulay El Hassan in Rabat on Thursday.
The South Africans could have wrapped up the game in the first half, but were wasteful in front of goals. Most of their shots were straight at Burundi goalkeeper Belinda Nooreraho.
If it had not been for her and a little luck, the Burundians could have been blown away with a double-figure score.
“We’re not completely happy with the performance, but the result is big,” said Ellis after Thembi Kgatlana’s, Amogelang Motau’s and Linda Motlhalo’s goals secured Banyana victory.
“We always look for improved performances, but today wasn’t a good day in terms of that. However, the result is just as important.
“Any victory is celebrated, but, obviously, there’s another game to go. There’s very little time in between the matches. We’re always looking to play better football, even though at times we have to grind out results,” she said.
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The result meant that Banyana advanced to the last eight with six points after beating titleholders Nigeria in their opening game on Monday.
“The three points are massive. Sometimes during a tournament, you have those games, but still manage to win. That’s key for us. Still, we’re disappointed that we didn’t play as well as we know we can,” said Ellis.
Banyana will need to be at their strongest against a Botswana team high in confidence.
Botswana, who are third with three points in Group C after their 4-2 win over Burundi in their opening match, will be a tough nut to crack.
While Banyana have already qualified for the quarterfinals, they will need to finish as group winners to send a statement of intent ahead of the knockout rounds.
However, Ellis said that could not be achieved with the kind of performance dished out against Burundi, since they were weaker opponents than Botswana, who play Banyana more often in the Cosafa Cup tournament.
“We created many opportunities, but – once again – our defence was suspect. That’s something we’ll have to work on [against Botswana],” she added.
The bigger picture for her will be guiding the team to the next round, the semifinals, which will come with automatic qualification for the Women’s World Cup next year.
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“We’ve got one foot into the semifinals, but it isn’t done and dusted. We’ve got to make sure that we start well against Botswana. We didn’t start that well against Burundi.
“We always want to start on the front foot and make sure we put our opponents under pressure. We’ll go back and have a look at what we could do better and analyse the opposition, who are very familiar to us, because we play against them often. We’ll put a plan in place and then it will be up to the players,” said Ellis.