South Africa’s Senior and Under-17 sides clash in COSAFA warm-up

The South African teams preparing for their respective COSAFA Women’s Senior and Women’s Under-17 Championships have met in a friendly that provided both coaches with the chance to assess their readiness for the tournaments.

The senior competition will be played from November 3-14, with the Under-17s to run concurrently from November 4-14. Both will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The senior Banyana Banyana side are seeking a fourth victory in a row, while the Under-17s are looking to make up for their final defeat to Uganda in the inaugural championship in this age-group in Mauritius last year.

As part of their preparations they squared-off in a training game at the SAFA National Technical Centre in Johannesburg before making the trip to Nelson Mandela Bay.

Banyana claimed a narrow 1-0 success, but the result was less important than the chance to gain fitness and game-time after both squads have been inactive for most of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the game went well, it was a test because we had a lot of questions with regards to the fitness, technical preparedness, tactical understanding of the game and understanding of each other as a team,’’ Banyana coach Desiree Ellis said.

‘’However, the most important part was the execution of the game-plan, as well as the mental state to be able to handle pressure and push for 45 minutes and more,” she added, before highlighting the work they have been doing to try and build attacks from out of defence.

“Do we panic or keep calm? I saw players build-up from the back and find solutions for themselves. It looked better but we can still do more fitness-wise. It is not where we want it to be for the tournament but it is better because they have an understanding as compared to when they first reported for camp.”

Under-17 coach Simphiwe Dludlu was also pleased with the opportunity and said thankfully most of her payers had come through the exercise largely unscathed.

“We also had no injuries now; just muscle strains because the players have been out of action for a while,” said Dludlu.

South Africa’s senior side have been a dominant force in the COSAFA Women’s Championship over the years, and have been drawn in a tricky Group A as they try to retain the title they have won in six of the previous seven tournaments.

They open their campaign against Angola on Nov. 3, before meetings with Eswatini (Nov. 6) and Comoros Islands (Nov. 9).

The side will have a number of new faces this year with many of the squad having now found clubs overseas, with players in Spain, Portugal, France and Sweden, among others.

Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semifinals.

The Under-17 side will play in a five-team competition that has a single pool played on a round-robin basis.

They open their campaign against Zambia on Nov. 4, before clashes with Zimbabwe (Nov. 6), East African guest nation Tanzania (Nov.8) and Comoros Islands (Nov. 12).

The top two teams advance to the final that will be played as a curtain-raiser to the senior decider on Nov. 14.