The fate of South Africa’s 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup participation lies in their own hands, but the national team has also heaped the pressure onto their shoulders.
Banyana Banyana is on the hunt for a place in the round of 16 at the tournament in Wellington, New Zealand.
To get to that elite group of countries for the very first time in their history, Desiree Ellis’s team has to beat Italy,
but they’ve also never won a World Cup match before.
If participating in a World Cup was easy, all teams would be doing just that, in fact Banyana would have been to more than just the two they’ve qualified for in their history.
However, Banyana Banyana has increasingly developed a knack for making life difficult for themselves.
The Champions of Africa have left it to their final Group G match to orchestrate a win, and qualify for the next round, neither of which they have ever accomplished before, and coach Desiree Ellis is conditioning her team to view the match against Italy as a final.
“This is definitely the final we cannot think of anything beyond this, we have to make sure we leave everything on the pitch not that we didn’t leave everything on the pitch in the other two games. This is one where there is no margin for error, we have to be very organised in all areas. You have got make sure that we are defensively sound, we have to make sure that we keep a clean sheet because we are a team that will create and then you have got to be clinical. It is going to take a huge amount of effort because Italy is a fantastic side.”
Of biggest concern, is the fact that the 13th ranked Italy endured a 5-nil drubbing at the hands of Sweden.
Italy are wounded and therefore an extremely dangerous prospect, but Ellis says her team is positive and committed to putting in the hard yards.
““When you get onto the training field you see the see the commitment you see the energy you know this team still wants to go that extra push because we know we came here to go to the second round that was the plan and the plan has not changed. It is now up to us tomorrow to put that plan in place make sure that we get the result that we deserve because we haven’t really got what we deserved out of this tournament we played so well and didn’t get the rub of the green.”
Having squandered two leads in the two World Cup matches they have played in New Zealand, one ending in a loss to the highly fancied Sweden, and the other a draw to an average Argentina, Banyana Banyana midfielder, Kholosa Biyana, knows that her teammates have left it late to get the win.
“We scored early in both games. We were leading in both games and we conceded very late in the game. I think for us that is one thing that we have been working on and we must make sure that we don’t concede especially after scoring we must try and contain the teams and be able to manage time.”
Biyana has to sit out this match after picking up one too many yellow cards, but she is still contributing in training.
“No it has been sad but we don’t cry over spilt milk, we have to move on we have to push because we still have a chance to go into the next round. We are high in spirits and we are working together to make sure we get the results out of that game.”
The match kicks off at 9am on Wednesday morning.
The team is desperate to see all their hard work pay off, and the nation is desperate to see Banyana Banyana advance in the World Cup.