Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is expecting another tough run-out when her side take on Botswana in Friday’s crucial 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship Group A clash in Port Elizabeth.
Both sides won their opening games of the competition on Wednesday‚ with this next clash billed as a pool decider as only the top team in each group is guaranteed a place in the semifinals.
The best-placed runner-up from the three pools will also make it through.
Banyana started with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over a surprisingly game Madagascar‚ while Botswana brushed aside Malawi 2-0 in their opener.
“The game against Botswana is not going to be easy.
“We have played them often enough and they know as much about us as we know of them‚” Ellis said.
“We will look to improve all-round. Even if we think the defence played well‚ there is always room for improvement.
“We are looking at the whole team improving their performance and getting a lot more shots on target. Goals win games.
“We have to be at our best to get the result‚” Ellis said.
“There are no small teams [in the competition]‚ whether you know the team or don’t‚ you have to prepare well.
“You underestimate an opponent at your own peril and we are just happy we got the first game out of the way because it is always difficult. We will work from here.”
Ellis is likely to be able to call on her United States-based trio of Janine van Wyk‚ Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana after they arrived in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday following the conclusion of their season with Houston Dash.
But she also says she will not rush them into action after what is an arduous journey from North America.
“With the travel from the US they were not able to play [on Wednesday]‚ so we have worked a little bit on recovery for them.
“We will monitor that and have a look at them in training‚” Ellis said.
“Yes‚ you want to play them‚ but we also have to look after their well-being. But I think we can also play well enough without them‚ we have enough personnel there to go onto the field and play.
“If you bring players to a tournament you also want to give them the opportunity to show what they can do.
“Otherwise it doesn’t make sense to have them there.”
Ellis has one eye on her side’s participation in the African Women’s Championship in Ghana in November and says this current tournament is vital in the build-up to their bid to win a place at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
“We want to keep the intensity up all the time because we know that when you go to AWC the level is a bit higher.
“You are playing against the top-ranked teams‚” Ellis said.
“We want to get our combinations right and more shots on goal because the higher the level the less opportunities you get.
“That is one thing we will be continuously working on.”