Wafcon 2022: South Africa gain boost by beating holders Nigeria in Group C opener

Desiree Ellis on the side lines
Desiree Ellis is looking to lead South Africa to a second successive Women's World Cup

South Africa have had their confidence boosted by beating holders Nigeria 2-1 in their opening game at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon), says coach Desiree Ellis.

Two quick-fire goals from Jermaine Seoposenwe and Hildah Magaia helped South Africa take control of the Group C encounter in Morocco, despite a late Rasheedat Ajibade consolation for the holders.

The South Africans largely controlled Monday's match but Banyana Banyana coach Ellis is not getting carried away with the victory and performance, which has been widely celebrated by their fans back home and on social media.

"It feels good. We had worked really hard towards this," Ellis told BBC Sport Africa.

"We knew when the draw came out how big the game was going to be. I think it was bigger than it was made out to be because it's Nigeria.

"It gives a lot of momentum, and that boost for the rest of the tournament. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves, because they're still a magnificent side, and we want to get out of the group and get to the quarter-finals."

Nigeria are record nine-time Wafcon champions and have won the past three tournaments, also losing to South Africa in their first game in 2018 before gaining revenge in the final in Ghana.

It proved to be Banyana Banyana's second win over Nigeria in the past ten months, having shocked the nine-time champions 4-2 in the Aisha Buhari Invitational Cup in Lagos.

Ellis added that the result in Nigeria last September gave them confidence heading into their Wafcon meeting and set the tone for their approach in Rabat.

"We needed to get that little bit of belief in us. Playing away in Nigeria and getting such a fantastic victory really pushed the players to a different level," she added.

"We kept showing what is possible, what we can do if you bring a similar performance. We brought an even better performance this time around."

Deja vu for lethargic Nigeria

Nigeria Women coach Randy Waldrum
Randy Waldrum will have to reorganise his Nigeria side before the Super Falcons face Botswana on Thursday

Ajibade struck deep into added-on time and gave uncoordinated Nigeria a rare highlight in an otherwise miserable game.

It is the second Wafcon in a row that Nigeria have lost to South Africa in their opening game of the finals, having been defeated 1-0 four years ago.

But coach Randy Waldrum was surprised his Super Falcons team was lethargic, sluggish and second-best in a game pundits considered a likely indicator of the tournament's outcome.

"Our slow performance surprised us. We've been training so well the last few weeks," the American admitted.

"I'm a little surprised we didn't come out a little bit more on the front foot. So we'll have to figure out why and get that sorted out for the next one as well.

"Obviously getting the late goal in the fight was a positive. We didn't stop playing. It's a positive to show we still have that character to fight until the end."

Leicester City defender Ashleigh Plumtre was a bright spot for the West Africans, who meet Botswana on Thursday, but suffered defeat in her tournament debut.

She admitted the South Africans deserved the three points, but remains confident the defending champions can bounce back.

"They played some really good football and the combination play was really good. Especially in their midfield, they were able to pull the strings quite a lot," the 24-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

"We just didn't change anything when we probably should have. I really hope we come up against them again, because I think we'll be better prepared next time.

"As soon as the game ended, it potentially could be a replica of the last [Wafcon] when we played them so if that's the case, then so be it."

Debutants share six-goal thriller

Elsewhere in Group C, youngster Keitumetse Dithebe scored Botswana's first goal in the championships when beating fellow debutants Burundi 4-2.

Dithebe finished off a good team effort by curling into the top corner to beat keeper Jeanine Irakoze before half time, with Lesego Radiakanyo's close-range finish doubling the Mares' lead after the break.

A sleek move saw Sandrine Niyonkuru pounce on a loose ball to pull one back for Burundi shortly after, but Refilwe Tholakele scored a four-minute brace just before the hour to give Botswana a 4-1 lead.

Burundi may have lost on their debut but they can savour Niyonkuru's second, a ferocious strike, nine minutes from time.

Botswana lead Group C on goal difference ahead of South Africa, with both sides in action again on Thursday against Nigeria and Burundi respectively.

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