The Cosafa Women’s Championship enters the semi-final stage today with a titanic match-up between hosts South Africa and Zimbabwe at the Wolfson Stadium to headline the day’s action.
Zambia and Botswana will clash in the other semi-final but that looks a more one-sided affair with the Zambians expected to advance despite being held to a goalless draw by the Mares on Tuesday.
All eyes will be on the second semi-final at 3:30pm though as South Africa, who have won five of the six previous finals, but lost to Zimbabwe in 2011, seek a
hat-trick of titles.
It is in many ways a shadow Banyana Banyana side that is missing around seven frontline overseas-based players, but they still managed to advance through the
pool stages by scoring 23 goals and conceding only one.
Zimbabwe will be by far their biggest challenge in the competition though and that makes this, in many ways, the “final before the final”.
South Africa coach Des Ellis says they have rotated throughout the tournament, but will now select what they see as their best XI.
“This [rotation] is the only way you can test if they are ready for a high level‚ we tried to keep the backline more or less the same to keep that synergy with
the defenders,” she said.
“We have also made some positional changes throughout the tournament. When you go to tournaments you need those multi-functional players.
“But it gets to the business end now. We have to look at everybody’s performance and then pick the strongest line-up for the semi-finals‚ knowing that players
have been given an opportunity.”
Ellis maintains team spirit remains high despite the loss of 170-cap influential skipper Janine van Wyk for the remainder of the competition to a knee injury.
“Just having her presence here with the team‚ she is a motivating factor. She is the leader of the team‚ she adds value just being here,” Ellis says.
“This is a fantastic group of players. We don’t look any further than the next game. We are very focussed on the task at hand.”
Zimbabwe coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda acknowledges the task facing her side, but says they will have a plan to foil the home side.
“They are the holders, it is going to be a very, very tough match. We have to derive a game-plan to contain their strengths and also need to maintain our level
and the way we are playing, and improve on our weaknesses,” Sibanda said.
“We have an idea of how South Africa plays, their strengths and weaknesses, that is where we will start in terms of our game-plan.”
Zambia and Botswana will meet for the second time in three days when they clash in the first semi-final at 12:30pm.