We have a lot of work to do — Banyana coach Desiree Ellis following Brazil drubbing
Two severe beatings at the hands of South American champions Brazil have laid bare the amount of work required to ensure Banyana Banyana will be competitive at next year's Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Two games. Nine goals conceded. None scored. Banyana Banyana’s first bit of action since clinching the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) demonstrated that there remains much work to be done if the team is to carry on climbing the competitive ladder in global terms.
After decades of hard work and determination, they’ve gradually ascended to the pinnacle of African football in recent years. Evidenced by their continued successes over rivals Nigeria, who have been the gold standard of women’s football in Africa for decades.
Following their double-header friendlies versus South American champions Brazil (where they were outclassed 3-0 and 6-0 respectively), the African champions were brought down to earth with a thud.
The results exposed the amount of work required for the senior South African women’s football side ahead of the 2023 World Cup and beyond, as they were thoroughly schooled by the dancing Brazilians.
Sequence of play
The first fixture, played at Orlando stadium in Johannesburg, saw the first-time Wafcon winners play it safe as they tried to suss the visitors out. They defended deep and did not attempt to take many risks.
Nonetheless, that didn’t prevent the tourists from securing a comfortable 3-0 win.
For the second fixture in Durban’s Moses Mabhida, the South Africans employed a braver approach as they pushed to see whether they could land a blow on the well-organised Brazilians, who have now scored 29 goals in their last eight fixtures — while conceding none.
However, within four minutes it was the South Americans who landed another blow — thanks to another defensive mistake. Coach Desiree Ellis had lamented those in the first fixture as well. From then on, the floodgates were open.
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Reflecting on how they had approached the second after the first loss in Johannesburg, Ellis told journalists: “We spoke about minimising our mistakes. We spoke about being brave and trying to play past their press. We spoke about creating opportunities. But we didn’t start well.
“It’s the mistakes that we make that top teams like Brazil pounce on. But when we get opportunities, we don’t utilise them… All-round, the result isn’t great.”
Banyana Banyana, who enjoy building up from the back and mesmerisingly passing their way to the opposition box, tried to play this way.
However, they could not make much headway as the tourists hassled and hurried the home side with an effective high press and tempo. Leading to more mistakes that were punished.
“We wanted a test like this to see where we’re at. A lot of players were tested. We need to now sit and look at the footage and see who goes with us on our journey, and who stays with us. I’m not happy with the result. There were a few positive moments. But negative moments outweighed the positive moments,” continued the long-time Banyana coach.
According to one of Banyana’s captains Janine van Wyk, they cannot afford to beat themselves too hard with regard to these results. The veteran believes they must draw inspiration and work as they prepare for just their second-ever World Cup.
“We have to play opponents like Brazil and other top 10 teams in the world in order to grow and be a better team. This is the kind of performance and result that one would get as you’re building your blocks,” Van Wyk told journalists.
“From a player’s perspective, we can’t dwell on a result like this. Of course, it brings your confidence down. But it also makes you realise the gap between where we are at the moment, and where we need to get.”
During their maiden World Cup appearance in 2019, the South Africans finished at the bottom of their group without a single point and only one goal scored.
Of course, they’ve improved significantly since then. But so have many others. Nonetheless, the hope is that for their sophomore World Cup experience, they will put up more of a fight. Being exposed to such fixtures will certainly contribute significantly to this endeavour.
“We have to make sure we minimise our mistakes… It’s not necessarily the team. But more individual errors. It’s decision-making under pressure. That is what needs to be better, because when we go to the World Cup the pressure is going to be even more,” added Ellis, looking forward.
Time will tell whether they will be able to bridge that gap sufficiently. What is clear is that Ellis and her technical team have much work to do to make it happen. DM