The South African Senior Women’s National Team has never qualified for the football soccer spectacle and is now closer than ever to compete in their maiden tournament.
Standing in their way is Mali – making their first appearance in the semi-finals of the Women’s AFCON tournament.
The two nations clash on Tuesday, 27 November 2018 at the Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana. Kickoff is at 18h30 local time (20h30 SA time).
The winners will proceed to the final of the 2018 Women’s AFCON and automatically book their tickets to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will take place in France in June.
“We have been saying we will take this tournament game by game, and now the most important match is upon us. This is a final for us as qualification for the World Cup is non-negotiable. We have been dreaming of this moment for a long time, now it’s time to walk the talk,” said Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis.
This will be the first ever meeting between the two countries, and South Africa come into this match having scored nine goals in three games, where they conceded two. They finished top of Group B.
Mali on the other hand had a somewhat leaky defence, letting in five goals and found the back of the net six times to end second in Group A.
“For the fact that they are in the last four means they are capable of playing, so we cannot take them for granted based on their past performance in this tournament. Also they have nothing to lose as this is their first semi-final in the tournament – while we have been here before, so the pressure is on us, hence we say it’s a do a or die affair for us. Unfortunately the good work we did in the group stages, and the preparations before the start of the tournament will count for nothing if we don’t get anything out this game. We haven’t lost a game but that is all in the past – we are playing a new match altogether. We have to be at our best to realise our hopes and aspirations,” added Ellis.
“We are within touching distance and it is all in our hands. We have to leave everything on the field and not count on having a second bite of the cherry at the third and fourth place play off, as it does not exist in our minds. We have come too far to leave it all behind. This is one match that no player needs motivation for.”
South Africa came close to winning the trophy in 2000, 2008 and 2012 when they finished as runners up.
The last two editions of the tournament were particularly difficult as they exited in fourth place.
“Most of the players in this current squad know and understand the heartbreak of coming close, and we all don’t want to go through the same pain again. History beckons for Banyana Banyana and South African women’s football – it is now or never,” said Ellis.
“We are carrying the hopes of millions of South Africans on our shoulders, and they have been very supportive of this magnificent team – we believe it’s time we paid back the only way we know how, by ensuring qualification for the World Cup. We are all aware it will not be easy as Mali are no pushovers, so we will have to double our efforts to reach our goal. We have so much to lose so we cannot afford to slip up.”
Ellis will also become the first coach to qualify Banyana Banyana for a FIFA World Cup – and the beauty of it is that she has been player and captain in this team before. She was also the assistant coach when the squad qualified for their second Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
Ellis also holds the record of winning the COSAFA Women’s Championship as both a player and a coach.
“It does cross my mind but I always try not to think of personal accolades because it is not about me, but the collective. We have a very strong and competent team working in the background to ensure this team succeeds. I may be the face of the team but credit goes to all the unsung heroes and heroines who tirelessly behind the scenes,” concluded Ellis.
Victory against Mali will see Banyana Banyana become only the second South African Women’s National Team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup – after the U-17 Women’s National Team has done so on two occasions, in 2010 (Trinidad and Tobago) and in 2018 (Uruguay).
They will also join Bafana Bafana (France 98, Korea & Japan 02 and South Africa 2010), the U-20 Men’s National Team (2017 Korea Republic), as well as the U-17 Men’s National Team (2015 Chile).
The U-20 Women’s National Team is also yet to qualify for the World Cup.