Banyana coach: ‘This is a victory for everyone in South Africa’

Banyana Banyana have booked a place in the Afcon final against Nigeria and a first-ever spot at the Women’s World Cup in France next year.

Banyana Banyana beat Mali 2-0 in the semi-finals of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations to book their place in the biggest showpiece in world football. Picture: @CapeTownFC/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis has lauded her side’s 2-0 Women’s Afcon semifinal victory over Mali which has not only booked them a place in the continental showpiece final against Nigeria but also a first-ever spot at the Women’s World Cup in France next year.

Striker Thembi Kgatlana scored her fifth goal of the tournament to open the scoring before Lebohang Ramalepe put the icing on the cake 10 minutes from full time to emulate Bafana Bafana’s feat from 1998 when they also booked their first-ever Fifa World Cup appearance in France.

Ellis says the achievement is for all the people of South Africa who have backed the team from the beginning.

“This is a victory for everyone in South Africa, for all the 50 million people who live in the country. We have brought hope to the hopeless and we have put a smile on someone’s face. This deserves a celebration and we will celebrate.”

“My smile covers my whole face because the people back home have given us wonderful support throughout this tournament, the tweets, the good luck messages and all the support from afar. They have all believed in us and the coaches that have been here before.”

Before they can start celebrating their World Cup qualification, Ellis and her side know that they have a tough Afcon final against defending Champions Nigeria on Saturday who they have already beaten in the tournament. The Super Falcons will undoubtedly be looking to avenge their 1-0 loss to Banyana in their opening Group B game.

“Nigeria is going to be tough because they know we have beaten them once in the tournament and will be looking for revenge for that game,” said Ellis.

“We have to continue to be at our best against Nigeria in the final even though we have realised our dream of qualifying for the World Cup next year and our tournament hasn’t ended with this semifinal win over Mali.”

Kickoff will be at 20:30 at the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday.