Desiree Ellis laments Banyana Banyana’s profligacy in front of goal following Argentina draw

Desiree Ellis laments Banyana Banyana’s profligacy in front of goal following Argentina draw
Cometti Aldana of Argentina fights for the ball with Seoposenwe Jermaine of South Africa during their World Cup Group G match in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 28 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ritchie B Tongo)

Banyana Banyana conceded two goals in five minutes as they threw away a comfortable two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Argentina. Though they earned their first World Cup point in the process, the result stings like a defeat because they could have scored more goals to ensure victory.

There is a cliché in the soccer community about 2-0 being the most dangerous lead a team can have. The perception is that it lulls the leading side into a false sense of comfort. 

For South Africa’s senior women’s side, Banyana Banyana, it proved to be more than an overused phrase as they squandered a comfortable 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Argentina in their second 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup match on Friday.

Linda Motlhalo tapped in comfortably with 30 minutes of the game elapsed to hand the African champions a well-deserved lead. Thembi Kgatlana laid on the assist for South Africa’s No 10 after beating Argentina’s offside trap and sprinting through on goal.

Even as Motlhalo scored, she was quick to caution her teammates against being too excited, too soon. After all, they have been victims of complacency when opening the scoring in the past. Most recently in their opening Group G game against Sweden.  

When Racing Louisville forward Kgatlana doubled South Africa’s lead just after the hour mark, it looked like Desiree Ellis’s charges would finally be able to register their maiden World Cup victory, and earn their first points in just their second appearance at the global soccer spectacle.

Banyana Argentina

Banyana Banyana’s Thembi Kgatlana in action against Argentina during their World Cup Group G match in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 28 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ritchie B Tongo)

Argentina fightback

However, after Banyana Banyana stretched their lead, they took their foot off the gas. Enter Argentina.

With under 20 minutes to play, the South Americans halved the deficit through a wonderful but hopeful long-distance strike by defender Sophia Braun which left South African goalkeeper Kaylin Swart flailing. This came after Banyana had failed to adequately clear their lines.

Read more in Daily Maverick: World Cup a blank canvas for Banyana to paint history

That goal saw a shift in momentum as the Argentinians upped the ante in search of an equaliser. They completed their impressive comeback in the 79th minute when substitute Romina Nunez headed in the equaliser.

By this time Banyana Banyana were rattled and Argentina pushed for the winner. It did not come. 

However, the South Americans will head into their final group tie with Sweden buoyed by their never-say-die attitude.

Little consolation

As for South Africa? They scored more than one World Cup goal for the first time in their history. The Africans also registered their maiden World Cup point. Though everyone in the team will know that it should have been three points instead.

“It’s fantastic that we got our first [ever World Cup] point. But three points would have been better. It would have felt better,” said an emotional Ellis during her post-match press conference.

That’s the problem, that we don’t take those chances. It comes back to haunt us every time.

Over and above being undone by poor game management, Ellis and her charges will once again be kicking themselves after wasting a number of great opportunities to score.

Had they grabbed these numerous chances to swell up their advantage before Argentina awoke from their slumber, the story at the end of the match would have been completely different.   

Banyana Argentina

Mariana Larroquette of Argentina fights for the ball with South Africa’s Bambanani Mbane during their Group G Women’s World Cup clash in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 28 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ritchie B Tongo)

“It’s the chances we create. It’s the moment we get into the final third and make the wrong decisions. When there were players running free and in goal, if we made better decisions, we would be talking differently once again,” Ellis lamented.

“You cannot create all those chances, then they get two chances at the back and they score. It’s about taking our chances. It’s about making better decisions in the final third. When we’re running through, it doesn’t matter who scores,” the Banyana coach added.

“It’s about putting someone in who’s in a better position, who has a better opportunity to score. That’s the problem, that we don’t take those chances. It comes back to haunt us every time.”

The draw has drastically reduced South Africa’s chances of making it to the knockout stage. Especially if Italy manage to beat or draw with Group G favourites Sweden. The two nations, currently on three points apiece, clash on Saturday, 29 July.

Even if the Italians are defeated by the Swedes – after seeing South Africa’s display against Argentina – they will be confident that they can beat the African champions on Wednesday.

Banyana Banyana may also have to battle Italy without skipper Refiloe Jane. The midfielder, who plays in the Italian top-flight at club level, was stretchered off early in the first half. She landed awkwardly and twisted her ankle during a 50/50 aerial duel. The extent of the injury is unclear at the moment. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • andrew farrer says:

    One has to ask why Desiree’s playing Swart ar GK? Slow reaction time, poor positional play and decission making. Is Swart her cousin? Is safa/ anc forcing the pick? Play the keeper who got us here!

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