Banyana Banyana take on the Czech Republic on Monday afternoon in what they will view as a crucial match in the development of the team.
It’s been a disappointing Cyprus Cup for the South Africans so far, having collected only one point from two games. Finland proved a tough opener but Desiree Ellis’s side were ultimately able to salvage a 2-2 draw. Korea DPR, however, easily established their dominance as they cruised to a 4-1 win.
“As a team we didn’t go on the field to lose but with every lose there’s a lesson to learn and we take it as a learning curve,” midfielder Leandra Smeda said over the weekend. “It’s such an early stage in our preparation and it’s a good lesson – we can only learn from this.”
Sluggish starts have been an annoying theme for Banyana as they had to had to come from behind against Finland and were were duly punished by their Asian opponents on Friday who surged to a 4-0 lead within the first 35 minutes. Ellis has no doubt spent the last two days drilling a sense of urgency into her players.
“Of late, and we try and remind our players all the time, the first 20 minutes for some reason we don’t start well,” she said. “When we looked at the game afterwards, our occupation of the pitch wasn’t too bad, we were in good positions, but at this level you have to pick up players. We tend to lose that and that’s exactly what happened. We’re not tracking back at times. They were excellent at moving the ball around quickly, we talk about us being like that one day but it’s a process.”
Even with one point on the board, it’s not all lost. South Africa can still achieve second place in Group A should they win on Monday and Finland don’t.
After the group games conclude in the Cyprus Cup, teams will be separated into match ups based on the standings to determine their final position. The Eastern Mediterranean competition was always seen as a chance to improve and grow ahead of the World Cup in June and at the very least Banyana have learned how a big side will pick them apart.
“There needs to be a lot more communication on the field,” Ellis continued. “If someone’s out of their position we need to call them back to be there. Also when we were in possession we couldn’t put two passes together in the first half, we just kicked it away. But if there’s no players in support the only thing in your mind is to get the ball up as far as possible.”