South Africa desperate to make up for past disappointment against Mali
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has called on her players to provide a "super phenomenal" effort in their African Women's Championship semifinal against Mali in Cape Coast on Wednesday as they look to seal a place at next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
Banyana will book a ticket to France with a win, while a defeat will provide them with one more chance to claim a spot if they can take the bronze medal in the third-place play-off.
But Ellis is desperate for them complete the job at the first time of asking, especially after past disappointments at this stage that has seen the side, who have been to the last two Olympic Games, fail to qualify for the World Cup.
Banyana booked their place in the semifinals by finishing top of their Group B with a 1-1 draw against Zambia as Thembi Kgatlana scored a fourth goal of the competition.
Ellis says that the performance against the Zambians was below par, but she hopes her players have kept something in the tank for Mali.
"It was not pretty, we always knew it would be difficult," Ellis told reporters. "I felt we were in control. We scored and then conceded immediately afterwards, we have spoken about that before and we needed to manage the game better.
"But the rest of the game we contained them well enough. We didn't rotate the ball as well as we should have, we didn't move off the ball like we normally do, the performance was lethargic.
"If you cannot play well and still grind out a result that is also important. Rather now than in the semifinals, which is a do-or-die match."
Ellis admits that the match with Mali will be a 'final' before the final given what is at stake in terms of World Cup qualification.
"It's our final, we will really have to be at our best. It is going to take a performance like the one against Nigeria to get the result and realise our ultimate goal of going to the World Cup.
"If we can be as good defensively against Nigeria and not concede, we are sure that we will get a chance to score. We need to be super phenomenal with the tired legs having played three games and the travel back to the Cape Coast.
"We have been talking about this and now it is time to really, really walk that talk, for everyone, the whole group of players need to be concentrated."
Ellis says the medical team will manage the fatigue of the players, especially as Mali will have had an extra day off having played their last group game on Friday.
"We will have to manage the recovery well, we have to make sure the players are fresh. We have been in this scenario before, we have a lot of good people with us to discuss all of that, to make sure the players are fresh.
"We need to be clinical in our approach and on top of our game and be clinical in the first period, to wrap it up and then manage the rest of the game.
"We have to play through whatever tiredness, you have got to leave yourself on the field and make sure you give your all. It is going to take that superhuman effort to realise our dream.
"Mali will not be easy, they knocked out the hosts [Ghana] and ran Cameroon close. They have had an extra day's rest too and are already in Cape Coast, so they have an advantage.
We will have to make the best of our situation.
"It is their [Mali's] first time in the semifinals, so they might have some nerves, they also know what is at stake, a place at the World Cup.
"We want to make sure we do what is necessary and not go into another game fighting for that World Cup place. If I was playing in a semifinal and I knew I had to win to book a place at the World Cup, I don't think I would need any extra motivation than that."
Banyana have failed in the third-place play-off before, most notably four years ago when they dominated the fixture against Ivory Coast but conceded late on to lose and miss out on the World Cup in Canada. Ellis says the players will use that disappointment to fuel their motivation.
"If we look back at 2014 we were unlucky when playing Ivory Coast because we missed so many chances and then conceded late on when it was too late to come back. In the last edition against Ghana we also had numerous opportunities and gave the goal away at the set-piece. We must learn from that."