It was not exactly vintage Banyana Banyana as they struggled to break down a resolute Zambia and could only settle for a 1-1 draw which kept them on top of Group B and they qualified for the semi-final where they will meet Mali on Tuesday.
Zambia coach Bruce Mwape said looking at all the eight teams that had come to take part in the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) tournament, everybody had the objective of qualifying for the World Cup.
“We did not come here just to participate,” said Mwape. “And obviously as a team we are disappointed that we did not achieve our objective. But we will go back home and work harder to become more competitive.”
But SA coach Desiree Ellis was equally not entirely satisfied about the performance of Banyana Banyana although was happy about the results that keeps the South Africans on course for their stated ambitions of qualifying for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France.
“We gave away possession easily,” lamented Ellis. “Mind you, it’s not the first time that after scoring, we give away opportunities immediately like that. Thembi (Kgatlana) could have sealed it once again but you know it’s well that it happened now and we are still in the competition.
“It’s good and it’s a wake-up call. But it cannot happen at this level and going forward we have to be on top of our game. That’s one of the things you learn in this tournament – you cannot settle down for one minute.
You got to be on top of your game all the time. There is simply no easy game at this level. You underestimate teams at your own peril and if you are not on top for 90 minutes you could be out of the competition.
Coach Bruce (Mwape) gave us a tough time today. Yes, we are neighbors but there was no sisterly love on the pitch. Yet I feel we gave as good as they gave. We are naturally happy with the result, the performance … certainly not.”
Kgatlana burst through the static Zambian defence as early as the 12th minute, controlled the ball with an exquisite one touch and then let rip with a thunderous shot that left goalkeeper Hazel Nali rooted to give the South Africans the lead.
It appeared as if Banyana Banyana will go for another rampage like they did when they annihilated Equatorial Guinea 7-1, and probably most South Africans also anticipated another goal feast, but Banyana Banyana strangely switched off and went to sleep.
They were rudely shaken from their siesta when Rachel Kundananji made space for herself three minutes later and her effort had Kaylin Swart beaten all hands up, as South Africa conceded the second goal of the tournament and the score remained like that until the end.
“We came here with the express purpose of qualifying for the World Cup and we are still on course,” said Ellis. “There is one more game to go and we win that one and our objectives shall have been achieved.
“That is the ultimate objective. Yes, sometimes the performance might not be satisfactory. You could 10-0 or 1-0 but you may find that the performance is unsatisfactory.
“You want an almost perfect performance, but sometimes that is not achievable. But we showed character here today and although the performance was not excellent, at least we managed to grind out a result.”
Cameroon and Mali were interested spectators as Banyana booked a date against Mali on Tuesday.