Banyana braced for ‘final before the final’ against old foe Zimbabwe
Banyana Banyana will face arguably their toughest opponents in the Cosafa Women’s Championship when they play old foe Zimbabwe in their semi-final at the Wolfson Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday.
It is a game billed as the ‘final before the final’‚ with the victor of this tie tipped to defeat either Zambia or Botswana in the decider on Sunday.
Banyana coach Des Ellis does not buy into that theory‚ but admits that the Mighty Warriors will be a huge challenge for her side‚ which is missing their overseas-based stars‚ but has cruised through the tournament to date with 23 goals scored and just one conceded in three pool matches.
“It’s never easy playing Zimbabwe‚” she said.
“We have played them on a number of occasions in the last few years and they have always been difficult games.
"We have to be on top of our game‚ both of us scored a lot of goals in the group matches.
“We had the opportunity to play against different opponents‚ but now the level goes up and we have to up our game.
"The individual performances of the players needs to be top-notch and we need to be disciplined in our roles.
“They [Zimbabwe] have also shown they have a lot of different goal-scorers‚ but we will come up with a game-plan. It is important that we have a Plan A‚ B and C‚ because they will also analyse us.”
Banyana defeated Zimbabwe 2-1 in the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship final‚ as well as the inaugural decider in 2002.
But the Mighty Warriors are also the only team outside of South Africa to lift the regional trophy after they beat Banyana in the 2011 final.
Ellis has used this year’s competition to rotate her squad and give a number of players their debut‚ but says she will now concentrate on selecting what she believes is her best XI.
“During the tournament we gave everyone an opportunity‚ now it is the business end and we know in our minds what our best line-up is‚” she said.
“We have tried to be consistent [in selection] with our defence to keep that synergy and we have two top-class goalkeepers. We want to keep the midfield as solid as possible.”
Ellis also dispels the notion that the winner of this semi-final will claim the trophy this year‚ saying Zambia and a youthful Botswana‚ who contest the other Last 4 game‚ will be no pushovers in the final‚ if they make it.
“Zambia are tough opponents‚ Botswana as well‚ they are always giving teams a tough time‚" he said.
"Once this game is out of the way‚ we hope to get a positive result and then we think about the next one.
“I just think if you look too far ahead then you lose focus on the task at hand and we never want to be in the position where we underestimate an opponent.
"Zimbabwe have looked really good in all departments. We will make sure our players are as prepared as possible.”
Zimbabwe coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda says she too will have a plan to foil the home side.
"They are the holders‚ it is going to be a very‚ very tough match.
"We have to devise a game-plan to contain their strengths and also need to maintain our level and the way we are playing‚ and improve on our weaknesses‚" Sibanda said.
"We have an idea of how South Africa plays‚ their strengths and weaknesses‚ that is where we will start in terms of our game-plan."
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