Ellis confident of Banyana come Tuesday

BANYANA Banyana players at training. | BackpagePix

BANYANA Banyana players at training. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 7, 2024


THE challenge that will come with beating Nigeria in the Olympics qualifier second leg on Tuesday night doesn’t faze Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.

Instead, Ellis is adamant that her troops should have enough fuel in their tank to reach the promised land: the Paris finals.

Banyana lost 1-0 to Nigeria in the first leg of the final Olympics qualifiers in Abuja on Friday night, thanks to Rasheedat Busayo Ajibade’s first half penalty.

Ellis’ side were not at their best in the first half as Nigeria dominated via Ajibade and Uchenna Grace Kanu's attacking prowess.

Ellis, though, was pleased with their response in the second half as they huffed and puffed for the equaliser that never came.

“I think it’s the same for both teams. But we are a ball playing team, but that surely hindered us especially in the first half,” Ellis said.

“In the second half we rectified things and started playing. We are going to familiar surroundings (in Pretoria).

“We are not looking for any excuses. As we say, it’s half time. We just must make sure that we are the first team to score when we go back to Pretoria.”

The return leg will be key for Banyana. They’ll have to make their striking unit work and score goals if they are to make it to the Paris finals.

“The first thing is that our recovery must be brilliant. Everyone must adhere to protocol,” the 61-year-old coach explained.

“We need to recover very well and quickly because there’s very little time in between. We have looked at footage and seen how we can recover and do better.

“We need to go for it and score, but we also need to be aware and not concede. We need to score first and get the game even and then try to control it.”

Banyana’s qualification for the Olympics is paramount. They didn’t qualify for the last edition in Tokyo, losing to Botswana on penalties.

Ellis will need their 12th man to rally behind them if they are going to win, and sponsors Sasol have supported the drive with ticket give-aways.

Ellis, a four-time CAF Coach of the Year, knows that qualifying for the Olympics could be a crowning moment for her coaching career.

Ellis led the nation to their maiden Women’s Africa Cup of Nations crown last year, and back-to-back World Cups in 2019 and 2023.

“We don’t need any motivation. Going to the Olympics is huge, so you don’t need any motivation to lift yourself up,” Ellis said.

“You don’t need motivation to change the mentality. But it’s up to us to take the game and make sure that we score and settle in defence.”