Cape Town – Banyana Banyana will be playing for pride on Saturday after being condemned to the ranks of the also-rans following their shock defeat at the hands of lowly Malawi on Thursday at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha.
Rank poor defence was at the heart of the 3-2 COSAFA Cup semi-final defeat, and Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis summed up that aspect by saying: "Our defending was criminal. Defensively we were poor today".
Apart from defence, Banyana Banyana's performance at set-piece time was rank amateurish. They enjoyed at least four close-in second-half free-kicks, which were struck wide of the target or straight at the opposition goalkeeper. Not a single effort from dead-ball play tested Malawi's defence.
Banyana Banyana are 55th on the FIFA women's world ranking, and Malawi are almost 100 places further back at 149. These rankings suggest winning should have been a formality for Banyana Banyana. However, Malawi coach McNelbert Kadzuwa said his team were patient and displayed the courage of a lion in setting up the win.
“We are a lion, and a lion has a heart to kill so that it can eat," said Kadzuwa.
"We have killed the elephant. The big elephant which is Banyana, cannot be killed easily. It cannot be killed by cutting its neck, never. Because it is an elephant, you have to bite it bit by bit, and that is what we have done."
On Saturday, Banyana Banyana will play Zambia (start 12 noon) in the curtain-raiser for the final between Malawi and Tanzania (3pm), one of the invited teams that are outside the COSAFA region. Tanzania are the champions of CECAFA (Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations).
The match will give Ellis a chance to restore some playing structures which went missing on Thursday.
“Normally, we talk about managing the game, and unfortunately, we did not manage the game well,” said Ellis.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score. I am disappointed with the result, but we must go back and look at ourselves and see what we could have done better.
"We lost our shape at the back by shooting out of the structures and then not picking up the runners coming into the box."
Banyana Banyana midfielder Sibulele Holweni heads up the leading goalscorers list with four goals. Stumai Athuman (Tanzania), Grace Chanda, Ochumba Lubandji (both Zambia) and Sabinah Thom (Malawi) are closing in her with three goals.