Stubborn Lesotho stand between Banyana and Africa champs
Banyana Banyana must overcome a stubborn Lesotho in the second leg of their African Women’s Championship (AWC) qualifier in Bloemfontein on Sunday as they seek to take another step towards next year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Coach Desiree Ellis’s side claimed a 1-0 away win in Maseru in the first leg on Wednesday‚ and will be hoping for no slip-ups to take victory in the tie and qualify for the AWC in Ghana in November.
There they will need to finish in the top three to seal a first-ever visit to the World Cup in France next year.
Ellis could not secure the release of her three United States-based stars‚ regular national captain Janine van Wyk‚ Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo at Houston Dash‚ and so Refiloe Jane is leading the team in the tie.
“It wasn’t easy to get the win in Lesotho’s own backyard‚ but we did what we had to‚” Jane said.
“Coming into the game on Sunday‚ everybody is looking forward to it and working hard to get the results we want.”
Lesotho provided some stubborn resistance in the first leg on Wednesday and Jane admitted Banyana may have to come up with a Plan B.
“It wasn’t easy to play through their defence‚ they had enough numbers at the back. It is something that we will be working on in the coming days‚” she said.
“It’s not easy playing against a team that stays at the back. If they do that again we will have to come with a strategy to break them down.”
Leandra Smeda‚ who scored the only goal in the first leg‚ said the side have been working on their finishing since then‚ having mirrored the men’s senior side in being wasteful in front of goal.
“The win away was good for us‚” she said. “We know the next game is not going to be easy - they are going to want to come out and get three points [the win] as well.
“We just need to think positive and keep the momentum up and go out there on Sunday to get the win we need to qualify for the AWC.
“We have been doing a lot of goalscoring [training] every day. It is something that we have been lacking through the years ‚ to score more goals.
“We created a lot of chances in the first leg‚ but didn’t score enough. This time we need to score.”
South Africa have qualified for every previous AWC finals they have entered‚ finishing runners up four times‚ but without managing to claim gold.
They have finished fourth on the last two occasions‚ famously in 2014 when they needed to beat Ivory Coast to qualify for the World Cup‚ but missed numerous simple chances before losing the game 1-0.