Banyana Banyana missed many chances and will be disappointed with their performance despite beating debutants Burundi 3-1 in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
As the 2018 finalists, many expected South Africa to put on a show against the youngest side at the competition. But the match played out in a much more lackluster fashion.
South Africa frustrate themselves
Banyana Banyana had a tournament-high 28 shots on goal, with 16 on target. But they walked away with only three goals against a spirited Burundi side. The South Africans missed one penalty and twice saw a player round the keeper before missing a clear opportunity.
The side took the lead early on when Thembi Kgatlana finished a sweeping move. It looked like the first of many goals. But the recently signed Racing Louisville centre-forward was chief amongst the wasteful forwards. She later rounded keeper Jeanine Irakoze, only for Diane Irankunda to make a goal-line block.
The South Africans were motivated and disciplined in their victory over Nigeria. But here, they showed a complacency rarely seen by Desiree Ellis’ team. The head coach was visibly frustrated on the touchline, as her team had the look of playing a casual match in training rather than a major tournament match.
The 2018 finalists rotated some players for the match, and it was apparent. They lacked the same fluency they had in their first match and were poor on the ball until midfielder Linda Motlhalo came on at halftime.
The South Africans will face a more challenging test against Botswana in their final group game of the tournament, and they will need to step up their intensity if they are to beat their neighbours.
Brave Burundi can hold their heads high
The Swallows came into this tournament as the lowest-ranked side ever to qualify for the tournament. Many expected the team to lose every match and concede several goals. But in their first match in their history against a team of any significant pedigree, they can look back at the performance with pride.
Not only that, but they even scored after going behind, stunning the Prince Moulay Hassan stadium and their opponents.
The goal was a superb team move capped by midfielder Aniella Uwimana sweeping home an Asha Djafari pullback.
It was the captain who once again was the Swallows’ best threat. Djafari showed her class against the heavy-weight opponents and notched up another lovely assist.
She received the ball with her back to Lebohang Ramalepe. But with a sharp turn and drop of the shoulder, she powered past the defender — doing the same to Bongeka Gamede before picking out the late run of Aniella.
The East Africans have another challenge when they face Nigeria in their final match of the group. But they will take heart from their performance against South Africa and look to once again frustrate their opponents while creating chances on the break.
Both sides’ fates sealed
Barring a collapse against Botswana, South Africa should comfortably finish top of the group and set up a quarterfinal tie with a third-place team. While not mathematically confirmed as group winners, Banyana Banyana would have to have a truly dreadful performance to allow the Nigerians to catch them at the top.
Similarly, Burundi’s fate of heading out of the tournament is not mathematically inevitable. But to qualify for the knockouts, they would have to thrash the Super Falcons of Nigeria. For the Swallows, this last game will be more about finishing the tournament on a high while learning from the experience.
Dlamini (GK), Ramalede, Gamede, Matlou, Dhlamini, Cesane, Jane (c), Motau, Seoposenwe, Kgatlana, Moodaly
Substitutes: Motlhalo, Holweni, Biyana, Majiya, Kgadiete
Irakoze (GK), Irankunda, Irankunda, Uwimana, Niuonkuru, Djafari (c), Ineza, Bukuru, Uwineza, Guinand, Niyomwungere
Substitutes: Nshirimana, Bukuru, Keza