South Africa head into their final group game needing just a point to secure top spot and set up a tie against Tunisia in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. But they face a tricky fixture against noisy neighbours Botswana who have already qualified for their first ever quarter-finals appearance.
Banyana Banyana looking for perfect group stage
South Africa have never won all three group games in a WAFCON tournament. Even in 2018 when they also beat Nigeria in the opening game of the group, the side drew with Zambia.
But this is a new South Africa side. As Janine Van Wyk said in the pre-match press conference, “every team that I have been a part of has brought something new, but I’ve said it to the squad. This is the best team we’ve ever had.”
Having dominated Nigeria, the 2018 finalists beat Burundi without ever coming out of second gear and will be frustrated they only scored three goals. The result against Nigeria has also bought Desiree Ellis a precious commodity, time to rotate the squad.
With teams only having two days between group matches, plenty of teams have seen muscle injuries and knocks picked up. But because South Africa have effectively sealed top spot, they can afford to rotate the squad as they did against Burundi.
They will not take Botswana lightly, nor their likely quarter-final opponents Tunisia. But South Africa will likely come into the knock outs and any potential semi-final as the most well rested team in the tournament which could be the difference between a podium finish and the trophy.
Old foes lie in wait for South Africa
Having already sealed qualification thanks to Uganda and Burkina Faso’s earlier draw and realistically unable to catch Nigeria (they would have to match the Super Falcons result with a better goal difference), Botswana have no pressure on them.
The Mares showed their attacking quality against Burundi and showed resilience against Nigeria, and they have another chance to play top opposition in preparation for their likely quarter-final match against hosts Morocco.
Botswana have previous against their Cosafa rivals. In 2019 the Mares pulled off a shocking upset when they knocked out South Africa on penalties in the Olympics qualifiers after drawing 0-0 in both legs. They have since lost to their neighbours, but the team will have confidence knowing that they do have the tools to stifle this Banyana Banyana attack.
Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang’s team have already achieved their objectives coming into the competition, beating Burundi and qualifying for the quarter-finals. They are the only debutants who made it to the second round of the competition and anything from here will be a bonus.
What they said
South Africa head coach Desiree Ellis:
“We know the threat that they pose. We want to make sure that we come top of the group and that we get maximum points.
“We want to make sure that we keep the squad fresh. There are some of them who have played two 90 minutes in a row and also considering the weather conditions. It’s not something we’re used to, its winter back home in South Africa.”
Botswana head coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang:
“We’ve prepared for our last match with Banyana Banyana and it will be a good match.
“It’s about sharing of the ball. We’re playing against a steam that shares the ball more. We’re also coming with a strategy that will work for us.”
“We can never go into a game relaxed because we never know what’s going to happen. We need to on the field of play and do well. We’re never going to sit and relax.”