Banyana can take charge of Nigeria tie with good result in Abuja: Ellis

27 March 2024 - 12:53
By Sazi Hadebe
Banyana Banyana players attend the training camp at the University of Pretoria on Tuesday.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix Banyana Banyana players attend the training camp at the University of Pretoria on Tuesday.

A good result in the first leg in Abuja will put Banyana Banyana on a firm footing for the home match of their deciding Olympic qualifying tie against Nigeria, South Africa coach Desiree Ellis says.

Playing the second leg at home at Loftus Versfeld on April 9 gives the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations champions Banyana some advantage in the tie. It means they can try for a win or draw in the away leg on April 5 that will put them in a strong position coming back to South Africa.

Ellis, though, stressed her team should not look further than the first match at MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja.

“The first leg will be key.

“Getting a positive result in the first leg will take a lot of pressure of us because the travelling is long and there's little time to prepare for the second leg.

“We're going early to Nigeria [Sunday] to prepare there as well. We need to get a positive result to take pressure off us coming home.

“We want to get home with little pressure and we're also urging the fans to come out in their numbers because when we play away the stadiums are packed.”

Goalkeeper Andile Dlamini will miss the match for medical reasons but Ellis is confident of the cover she has in goals. 

Kaylin Swart cast aside doubts with her strong performances as Banyana became the first senior South African football team to progress past a World Cup group stage in Australasia last year when she was controversially played between the posts by Ellis ahead of Dlamini. 

“It doesn't affect us much. We have a group of players to step in if somebody steps out. It gives an opportunity for someone else to raise their hand,” Ellis said.

The team has been buoyed by crucial players returning from injury, including midfield captain Refiloe Jane and defenders Bambanani Mbane, Sibulele Holweni and Bongeka Gamede.

Ellis will announce her squad on Thursday.