Banyana coach Ellis knows they can't take anything for granted against Equatorial Guinea

Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis celebrates with her technical team and the bench during their opening 2018 African Women's Championship against Nigeria in Gold Coast, Ghana, on November 18 2018.
Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis celebrates with her technical team and the bench during their opening 2018 African Women's Championship against Nigeria in Gold Coast, Ghana, on November 18 2018.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says she will look at ways to keep her team fresh as they prepare to face Equatorial Guinea in their second Group B clash at the 2018 African Women’s Championship on Wednesday.

Banyana are still basking in the epic 1-0 success over defending champions and tournament favourites Nigeria on Sunday‚ just the second time that South Africa have defeated their arch-nemesis since re-admission to international football.

By contrast‚ Equatorial Guinea were humbled 5-0 by Zambia in the other game in the pool‚ which would suggest a routine win for the Banyana.

But Ellis knows all too well that they can take nothing for granted and is expecting a reaction from their opponents.

"It is always difficult to face a team that has lost so heavily because they will come out fighting‚” Ellis said.

“But we have a lot of experience‚ a lot of players who have been part of this team for a while. They are keeping everybody grounded and level-headed‚ that is the maturity they have in the group.

“For the newer ones it is the first time‚ they don't know the magnitude of this victory [against Nigeria]‚ but after listening to people celebrate they will realise how big it is.”

Ellis says key midfielder Refiloe Jane took a knock against the Nigerians and could be rested‚

"Fifi [Jane] picked up a slight niggle‚ but she says she is fine‚" she said.

"It is better to have caution though‚ we potentially have a lot of games in the tournament.

"We will see how we can freshen up a bit‚ because that is important. Mamello [Makhabane] is back in the team after being out for a year‚ we had given her 45 minutes against Lesotho‚ but we have to be cautious with her.

"We have a group of players that‚ if we don't want to take a chance with someone‚ we can leave them on the bench. We have a good enough squad.”

Banyana claimed victory over Nigeria in the semi-finals six years ago‚ but then went on to lose 4-0 in the final to Equatorial Guinea‚ who admittedly had a superior side to the Class of 2018‚ who are a rag-tag mix of mercenary players and extreme youngsters.

They include 13-year-old forward Berta Ochaga‚ 14-year-old defender Avelina Ndong and four players aged 16‚ to go with seasoned veteran and talisman Genoveva Añonma.

"We will take nothing for granted‚ we analysed their game [against Zambia]. We are very thorough in how we analyse and we will have to be spot on again [with the game-plan]‚” Ellis said.

"Wednesday's game is just as key as the Nigeria match was‚ getting the three points and taking the pressure off us. We want to continue the momentum and the winning feeling because it gives a lot of confidence to the players.”

Banyana must finish in the top two in their pool to advance to the semi-finals and after that claim at least the bronze medal to qualify for a first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance in France next year.

Their final pool game will be on Saturday against Zambia.

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