WAFCON: Nervy South Africa qualify for World Cup but must improve

South Africa qualify for the World Cup. Image from CAF/WAFCON

South Africa qualified for their second ever World Cup, following their first appearance in 2019, after narrowly beating Tunisia.

Despite the achievement, the team put out arguably their worst performance of the tournament and will need to improve if they want to win their first Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Banyana Banyana their own worst enemy

South Africa are arguably the best coached side at the WAFCON. Take one look at the football they play and you can see that no other team at the competition can play the same brilliant football that the South Africans can.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the goals they scored against Nigeria, which are team goals of the highest calibre.

However, since that Nigeria game, South Africa seem to have regressed.

The biggest problem for Desiree Ellis’ side, is their inability to take the chances given to them.

Against Nigeria, the South Africans had two chances and took both of them well, killing off the game.

But against Burundi and Botswana, they failed to take the near countless number of chances that they created. Against the East Africans they had 28 shots, but only scored three, missing a penalty and two open goals.

Against Tunisia, the South Africans started with the same fluency we have come to expect from the 2018 finalists. They grabbed an early goal through Jermaine Seoposenwe and were on track for a comfortable victory.

But once again, they showed their profligacy in front of goal.

Early in the second half, they missed a host of clear cut chances, including another couple of opportunities where the goal was gaping.

Unlike their group stage games though, Banyana Banyana actually invited pressure. The final 20 minutes were nerve wracking. Gone was the neat passing patterns, instead replaced with wild clearances into the stands.

For the final stages of the match, one would have thought that Tunisia was the team who were looking to win the Cup of Nations and qualify for the World Cup.

The Eagles of Carthage were not able to take advantage of their opponents’ panic, coming closest with a last minute penalty shout that was turned away by referee Salima Mukansanga. But the North Africans, participating in their first ever knockout match, showed that this South Africa side are extremely vulnerable.

Semi-final will not be as forgiving

South Africa will not be afforded the same luxury of playing so badly for such a long spell, when they face off against neighbours Zambia.

We have already seen how Botswana lifted their performance when playing their big sisters. Zambia will undoubtedly do the same, but have the tools to punish any slip ups from their rivals.

Physically, Zambia are a very dominant side. Up front, Ochumba Lubandji is an excellent target. She is strong, holds up the ball well and moves around the pitch to occupy defenders.

On their left wing, Xiomara Mapepa possesses lighting pace and a delivery to match.

But above all, South Africa will fear Grace Chanda. The No.10 has stepped up as Zambia’s talisman in the absence of Barbra Banda. She plays as a second striker, behind Lubandji, but has the freedom of the pitch.

The forward, who plays for ZESCO United in Zambia, has an unbelievable turn of pace, as well as being a lethal finisher of the ball. She showed her best football against Togo, a team that like South Africa, plays a very high line. If the South Africans persist with their high line, they will have to contest with Lubandji’s ability to occupy centre-backs, allowing for Chanda to blow past the defence.

South Africa are still a powerhouse, and will go into the match as favourites to progress to the final of the competition. But after the last round of fixtures, Zambia will see themselves as having a brilliant opportunity to unnerve their rivals and get to their first ever WAFCON final.

For Banyana, they still look like a team playing as the second best team in Africa. They lack the arrogance and self belief that the Super Falcons have and only comes with success.

South Africa have to overcome the demons within before they can conquer on the field.

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