FIFA Women’s World Cup: South Africa coach happy with team despite loss to China

Aristo Dotse, AIPS Member
Paris, June 14, 2019 – South Africa women’s coach Desiree Ellis says she is proud of her players despite the team’s damaging defeat to China in Paris on Thursday night at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Banyana Banyana, as the South African women’s team is called, lost their opening game 3-1 to Spain last Saturday in their first World Cup appearance and Thursday night’s narrow 1-0 defeat to China, courtesy of a 40th minute goal from Player of the Match Ying Li, at the Parc des Princes means elimination from the tournament stares them in the face even before they play their last group game against group leaders Germany on Sunday. But Ellis is encouraged by the gallant effort of the team.

“Of course nobody will be happy losing. But I am pleased with the effort of the girls,” she told the media at the post match press conference. “They deserve some encouragement for their hard fight.

“The people back home in South Africa won’t be happy with the result but I think they would be content with the team’s performance.”

Desiree is happy that despite her team’s inexperience at this level, as this is South Africa’s first appearance at this stage, the players have so far fought a good fight.

“This is our first FIFA Women’s World Cup and the players have shown we didn’t just come here just to participate but to fight and prove a point. This is a group of girls who want to make a mark and show themselves on a certain level to South Africans.

“They have shown that we don’t only have a team but a squad. The players who came on in the second half stood up well and fought.”

South Africa’s attacking weakness

Although content with the performance of her players, Ellis acknowledged the team’s weakness in attack, pinpointing the lack of fire power upfront and lack of adequate support for “fantastic” striker number 11 Thembi Kgatlana – the reigning African Player of the Year who posed lots of problems to the Chinese defence – as a reason for the China defeat.

“We realised in the first half there was a big gap between the defence and midfield which affected our potency upfront. So in the second half we pushed the defence forward to play a high line to support the forward to chase the game.

“Thembi is a fantastic striker but she didn’t get the support she needs. We are trying hard to work on our finishing which is very important. We are playing well and create lots of chances but our finishing is the problem. We are working to solve this.”

South Africa’s improvement and new women’s national league

“We have developed but there is still lot of improvement in terms of everything and we are trying to improve. We don’t have a national league; we play only a provincial league but when we get back to South Africa we are starting a national league,” Ellis explained.

Group of Death and final group game with Germany 

South Africa will come up against perhaps the group’s strongest side in Germany – the Group B leaders with six points from their first two games – in their final group game on 17 June at the Stade de la Mosson in the southern French city of Montpellier. But Ellis is undaunted by this clash against the world’s number two side and two-time world champions.

“Germany will be a tough game. They are the second-ranked team in the world. So it is going to be a very difficult game for us. But as these girls have shown in their first World Cup, they never give up. We are going to fight and see what happens.

“We are in a tough group; many say it is the group of death. But we are trying to do our best.

“We gave a strong performance against Spain and I think we were unlucky against them. It could have been two or three goals against them even long before they scored their first goal.  And we did the same against China today. But we need to improve on our finishing. So we will give it our all against Germany and hope we get something from this game.”

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