Desiree Ellis. Picture: SUPPLIED
Desiree Ellis. Picture: SUPPLIED

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says she expects an improved performance from her side when they take on North Korea in the Cyprus Cup on Friday‚ but also hailed their character in battling back to draw 2-2 with Finland.

SA twice came from behind to claim the draw with the Finns as a Leandra Smeda penalty and Thembi Kgatlana equaliser earned them a credible result against a side positioned 20 places above them in the Fifa world rankings.

On paper, the North Koreans look an even greater challenge as they sit at No 11 on the global list‚ though they surprisingly failed in their bid to reach the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.

Ellis was pleased Banyana were able to overcome a nervous first half with an experimental side, and the introduction of Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo after the break had a big impact.

“In the first 15 to 20 minutes we didn’t start well again. When we did get the ball we looked a bit rushed and should have held onto it and passed it around a bit more‚” Ellis said.

“When we did start to do that it looked a lot better and we had a fantastic chance just before halftime with Rhoda [Mulaudzi] being put through‚ but unfortunately she didn’t score.

“It looked easier to score than to miss, and those are the chances that will come very few and far between against some teams and we have to take them.

“The second half went much better. But, again‚ poor marking conceded the second goal‚ poor marking and not tracking the player. It shows the character of the team‚ but we cannot consistently make the mistakes where we don’t pick up [opposition players] because teams at a higher level will punish you.

“We have to react quicker and track players better‚ but at the end 2-2 is a fair result. We have to learn to start games better. We have to up our performances.”

Ellis handed second caps to defender Tiisetso Makhubela and midfielder Karabo Dhlamini‚ and says both grew into the game as it went on as she continues to assess her World Cup squad options.

“Tiisetso started slowly‚ but later on looked like a seasoned campaigner. Karabo … it’s difficult coming from the Under-17 World Cup‚ where the level is not as intense. She is starting matches now and looked a bit overawed‚ but got into the game and started to look stronger.

“We expect a lot of our players‚ especially someone like Karabo‚ who is so talented. I thought overall Tiisetso did really well at the back. We also tried Jermaine [Seoposenwe] and Rhoda in different positions‚ so there were a lot of positives.”

Ellis says there will be little time for rest with their North Korea clash looming large on Friday.

“It comes thick and fast‚ you have to mentally switch on and be physically ready. We have to show character‚ we are playing a much higher-ranked team.

“We have played them before and I don’t think they would have changed much‚ for us it is important to get our game plan right and for the players to execute better.

“We will make some changes‚ we want to play more players.”

Banyana and North Korea played to a 0-0 draw at the 2018 Cyprus Cup.