SOUTH Africa head coach Desiree Ellis, is convinced that the Bayana Bayana will prove the equal of Nigeria’s Super Falcons when the two teams meet in the opening match of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Morocco in July.
Nigeria and South Africa, alongside Botswana and Burundi, were placed in the tournament’s Group C at the draw made last month.
The Super Falcons are the reigning champions and the favourites to go all the way and lift a record extending 10th AWCON trophy.
But South Africa have shown in recent times that they are a growing force in women’s football.
The Bayana Bayana are seventime winners of the COSAFA Cup and four-time runners-up of the AWCON, losing to Nigeria on two of those occasions.
But the Mandela Ladies defeated the Falcons 1-0 in the opening group match of the last edition of AWCON before losing on penalties in the final after full-time scores stood at 0-0.
The South Africans avenged that 2018 final loss when they defeated the Nigerians 4-2 to win the inaugural edition of the Aisha Buhari Cup last year in Lagos.
Bayana coach Ellis admits that the Falcons remain the team to beat at the women’s championship.
But the former international is silently confident that her team can prove their quality against the West Africans again.
“Well, we always knew the draw was not going to be easy. Nigeria, the defending champions and multiple winners always bring their A-game and know what it takes to win,” Ellis told CAFOnline.com.
“We have played them a few times in the group stages. They have raised their levels, and we have to raise our levels even higher to get a positive result. The first game is the most important game and once again, we need a positive result, but it will take a huge effort.
“Anything that has come before is history but it has shown us what we are capable of and has given us confidence and belief. As I said earlier, we have played them many times in the group stages and this will be no different, especially with this being an opening group match which is similar to 2018.
“We will need a huge effort to get a positive result. The first game is the most important of any tournament and getting a positive result is very important but we know that it’s not going to be an easy game. Actually, it’s going to be a very difficult game.”
This year’s AWCON, which also serves as the qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, will take place from July 2 to 23 in Morocco.