South Africa could join Morocco and Senegal in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations if they win against a Burundi team that need a positive result if they want to get out of the group.
South Africa the team to beat
Desiree Ellis’ team dominated tournament favourites Nigeria in their opening fixture, running out 2-1 winners in a confident display. The South Africans played the best football seen at the tournament in what was a landmark performance.
Having come into the tournament with the tags of being the bridesmaid and never the bride, the result against the champions will have gone a long way in boosting the moral of South Africa.
However, the team played like a side without any pressure on them. They were superb on the ball, controlling the tempo of the match, while completely nullifying Nigeria’s threats going forward.
In particular, Captain on the day Refiloe Jane and Linda Motlhalo in midfield were excellent. Despite, competing against a physically powerful Nigeria midfield, they were unflappable. They pressed well and when they were pressed themselves, were able to move the ball around the park with ease.
Against the youngest and most inexperienced side at the tournament, anything less than a rout will be seen as an underperformance. Ellis will have to manage any complacency that could creep into the team.
Burundi here for the experience
Burundi bravely lost their first ever WAFCON match against fellow debutants Botswana in a thrilling game that ended 4-2 in favour of the Mares. The Swallows now have to follow it up by playing the two favourites of the competition.
The Swallows have an average age of 20.5 years, the youngest of any side ever to participate at the WAFCON. They are also came into the tournament having never played a team ranked higher than 120 in the FIFA World rankings.
Expectations are low for the East African nation and they will be looking to keep the score line respectable against the 2018 finalists.
— Equipe Nationale de Football du Burundi (@intambazacu) June 30, 2022
But the Swallows do have a couple tools of their own that could hurt the South Africans. Chief among those is captain Asha Djafari. The forward was top scorer last season in the Tanzanian Women’s Premier League for champions Simba Queens.
She has an excellent turn of pace and a has a drop of the shoulder that few others in the competition have. If the Swallows can get the ball into her feet, she has the ability to beat any defender and create chances.
What they said
South Africa head coach Desiree Ellis:
“We’re always looking for improvement in our performances. We want to be better, to get better, and to make sure, number one that we don’t concede. Because we know they’re a team that can create opportunities. They’re a team that will take any opportunities.”
Burundi head coach Gustave Niyonkuru:
“The preparations are going well were going to continue today. We know were going to play a tough team so we are prepared for this mentally. We’re going to try to correct the errors in the last match.
“We have a very young team we have about 10 players less that 20 years. That is a choice. We want to test the youth.
“It is really an honour for our country its an honour for me to qualify the burundi team to this competition. I’m proud and the whole country is proud.”