Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis hailed her charges' 2-1 victory against Nigeria on Monday at the Moulay Hassan FUS in Morocco, Rabat, as a "massive three points" in their quest to lift the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations title.
The highly-anticipated Group C encounter was, as expected, a spectacle of chances (scored and missed) and big tackles as the two nations, both title favourites, had no desire to make errors.
The opening stanza remained goalless, but 15 minutes after the restart Banyana broke the deadlock through Jermaine Seoposenwe, who netted her 17th goal in senior national colours. Two minutes later, South Africa doubled their lead with Hildah Tholakele Magaia finishing off a fine football display by Ellis' charges.
Nigeria did pull a goal back in stoppage time, but it was too late as Banyana held on for a rare win over the Super Falcons.
"We knew we needed a good start, to give us the confidence, to give us the momentum. They (Banyana) executed the plan to the T," Ellis expressed during the post-match press conference.
"In the first half, we could have played more through balls, but we executed much better in the second half.
"This is a massive three points, and it sets the tone for the rest of the tournament for us."
?? ????????????????????: ???? 1-2 ???? #TeamSouthAfrica bag an important win in their #TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 opener vs. the title-holders #TeamNigeria! ?#TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 | #EmpoweringOurGame |@Football2Gether | @Banyana_Banyana pic.twitter.com/mwXYYPAZVe— #TotalEnergiesWAFCON2022 (@CAFwomen) July 4, 2022
Banyana had only managed to beat Nigeria twice in previous meetings at the Women's Afcon, with the last victory coming at the 2018 edition, also in the group stages.
The Super Falcons did go on to lift the title, beating South Africa 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
"We knew that we could not physically match them. We knew that our strength was keeping the ball on the ground," Ellis continued.
"We wanted to move the ball around much quicker. Our movement was good. Our passing of the ball and our switching of the play was really good, and that is what resulted in the goals."
South Africa are second Group C, with matches against Burundi (Thursday, 19:00) and Botswana (Sunday, 22:00) to follow later this week. They are one victory away from advancing to the quarter-final stage.
"Look, we're not going to underestimate any team. You see the teams that are here, Tunisia beat Equatorial Guinea, and Senegal beat Mali," Ellis said.
"We are not going to underestimate any team. This game (against Nigeria) is now behind us, and we focus on the next opponent, which is Burundi; we'll stay level-headed."