Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis believes the three-one defeat against Spain in their 2019 World Cup opening match was a true reflection of the encounter. Despite the loss, she was proud of the courageous performance her players displayed at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre in France.
The first 45 minutes of Banyana Banyana’s World Cup debut appearance will be one to remember for many years. It was a sight of pure determination from the South Africans. Every one of them on the pitch put their bodies on the line and then a 25-minute strike by Thembi Kgatlana left the Spaniards rattled.
Kgatlana who also scored against Nigeria in their first game of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations just a few months ago, became the first Banyana Banyana player to score at World Cup.
“The coaches have been encouraging me throughout the whole time we arrived in France that I get into a good position. But I want to play someone else who is in a better condition where as I’m also in better position so why not take a shot because sometimes the keepers are not ready,” says Kgatlana.
The Spaniards desperation was evident as they struggled to get the equaliser. However, it was in the second half that they would up their game forcing Banyana Banyana to adopt a defensive approach that would go on to cost them the game.
It led to two penalties given to Spain – after consultation with the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system and a subsequent red card to shown to South Africa’s fullback Nothando Vilakazi.
“If you score your second goal in the 70th minute it’s almost over whether you are defending high up or deep you invite trouble when you deep because any loose ball that you don’t pick up around that area gets punished,” says Ellis.
Although the result didn’t go Banyana Banyana’s way there were a few positives that the team will take to the next match against China on Thursday. Most notably the last line of defence which was better organised up until the side was reduced to ten players.
“It’s just unfortunate that those little didn’t go our way and we look forward to our next game and it’s going to help moving forward certain things that happened today that we need to fix and go forward with a positive mind set,” says Andile Dlamini who is a Banyana Banyana player.
The outcome was not ideal, but the memories of making history by representing their country at the biggest women’s sporting event will live with them for a very long time to come.