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Though Nigeria are expected to be the biggest hurdle in Banyana Banyana’s ambition to win their first African Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon)‚ coach Desiree Ellis wants her troops to give equal respect to all teams in the tournament.
The 2022 Awcon will be staged in Morocco from Saturday July 2. The four semi-finalists will qualify for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
Banyana are in Group C with 11-time champions Nigeria and debutants Burundi and Botswana.
Ellis has warned SA should never make the mistake of focusing only on Nigeria and Cameroon‚ the strongest teams in the 12-team competition.
“We can’t underestimate anyone. They are there because they deserve to be there and we saw Burundi beating Tanzania and Botswana coming through‚” Ellis said.
“You have Senegal beating Mali‚ who were semi-finalists in 2018‚ and Tunisia knocking out two-time champions Equatorial Guinea. Women’s football on the continent is on the rise.
“We have to make sure we move in that direction so we don’t get left behind.”
Banyana kick off their campaign against defending champions Nigeria in Rabat on July 4.
“We have to make sure we get a positive result from the first match because that will set the tone for the rest of the tournament‚” Ellis said.
“It will also be naive of us to go to the tournament and not set a goal of winning it. I think we will be no different from any other country in wanting to win it.
“We’ve been runners-up five times and 2018 was really the closest. The time is now that we really step up and make sure we get that gold medal‚ but we must not underestimate any teams in our group.”
SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan has promised a R10m bonus to the team if they win the tournament in Morocco.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.