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Janine van Wyk, centre,with B nyana Banyana goalkeepers Andile Dlamini ,left, Kaylin Swart, front, and Regirl Ngobeni during their 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations training session at Stade El Bechir in Casablanca, Morocco on July 16 2022. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Janine van Wyk, centre,with B nyana Banyana goalkeepers Andile Dlamini ,left, Kaylin Swart, front, and Regirl Ngobeni during their 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations training session at Stade El Bechir in Casablanca, Morocco on July 16 2022. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana “have to be better” to win the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon), Desiree Ellis has admitted. But the coach also sees factors she believes will result in an improvement in Monday’s semifinal against Zambia.

SA meet Zambia at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco.

After their rousing start with their 2-1 opening Group C win against 11-time champions Nigeria, Banyana have been less convincing, but still negotiated two more round-robin stage wins and Thursday’s 1-0 quarterfinal victory against Tunisia.

Ellis is aware that to reach the final, where they are likely to face Nigeria who have improved through the tournament for a second time, Banyana need to recapture some of their opening-match fluency and put to bed their achilles heel of missing chances.

She said that with the pressure of reaching the 2023 World Cup — the four semifinalists qualify — off SA’s back, and a Covid-19 outbreak reaching some form of conclusion, Banyana can concentrate all their energies on the pressure of the Wafcon.

Ellis pointed out her players seemed to freeze in the second half against Tunisia after an excellent first stanza. The coach put it down to the pressure of knowing if they lost the game they would be out of the competition and no longer gain automatic qualification to the World Cup.

“In 2014 we were in a similar position where we lost in the semifinals and had to play in the playoffs, and it [qualification] didn't happen.

“But I must commend the players. Even though it was really frantic out there they fought for each other and made sure we didn’t concede.

“I think the pressure of qualifying is now off our backs. Obviously the semifinal is another pressure game, and we look forward to that.”

SA have lost their last two games against Zambia, on penalties in the Cosafa Cup last September and 3-0 in a friendly in February that served as preparation to SA’s qualifying win over two legs against Algeria that saw them through to the Wafcon.

“Zambia have shown the quality, they have shown the resilience with them also facing a lot of adversity. And their players have really come through,” said Ellis.

Zambia topped group B with a draw against Cameroon and wins against Tunisia and Togo. They beat Senegal on penalties in the quarterfinals.

Women’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinals

Monday (SA times):
Zambia vs SA (Stade Mohamed V, Casablanca, 7pm)
Morocco vs Nigeria (Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah, Rabat, 10pm)


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