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Banyana now face Zimbabwe in Cosafa semis as they seek a third title in succession

Banyana Banyana coaching and playing staff with their Madagascar counterparts during the Cosafa Women Championship match at Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth on August 5 2019.
Banyana Banyana coaching and playing staff with their Madagascar counterparts during the Cosafa Women Championship match at Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth on August 5 2019.
Image: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis was pleased with the way her much-changed side breezed past Madagascar in their final Cosafa Women’s Championship Group A game on Monday‚ but knows that much bigger challenges await in the semifinals.

Banyana will now tackle Zimbabwe in the Last 4 as they seek a third title in succession‚ but this time without a host of their top stars who ply their trade overseas.

Ellis has had to do without the likes of Thembi Kgatlana‚ Linda Motlhalo and Nothando Vilakazi in Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth‚ but has therefore been able to give a run to a new generation of national team players.

They sealed their semifinal place with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Malagasy‚ and end the pool campaign with 23 goals scored and just one conceded in their three games.

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“We were in complete control of the match‚ they sat back very deep with a wall around the goal. We wanted to play the ball around to draw them out‚” Ellis said.

“We also wanted to give the opportunity to two debutants [Shange Sthembile and Priscilla Pesa]‚ which was very important because we want to give players an opportunity‚ but also make the pool bigger‚ which is important for Afcon and for the World Cup.

“I felt we could have scored more goals‚ at times when we had the ball just outside the box we could have taken shots‚ but we were still trying to pass the ball around‚ the decision-making we have to improve on.”

Ellis made six changes for the game and has rotated her squad throughout the tournament‚ but now says it is time to settle on a best XI with Zimbabwe looming on Wednesday.

“This is the only way you can test if they are ready for a high level‚ we tried to keep the backline more or less the same to keep that synergy with the defenders.

“We have also made some positional changes throughout the tournament. When you go to tournaments you need those multi-functional players.

But it gets to the business end now. We have to look at everybody’s performance and then pick the strongest line-up for the semifinals‚ knowing that players have been given an opportunity.”

Ellis will be without regular skipper Janine van Wyk‚ who is out of the tournament with a knee injury‚ but still adding value according to her coach.

“Just having her presence here with the team‚ she is a motivating factor. She is the leader of the team‚ she adds value just being here.”

Ellis adds there will be no sense of complacency‚ with Zimbabwe likely to be their biggest challengers for the regional title.

“This is a fantastic group of players‚ we celebrate today but tomorrow we refocus for the next challenge. We don’t look any further than the next game. We are very focussed on the task at hand.”

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