22 September 2017 – Banyana Banyana will face hosts Zimbabwe in the final of the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship on Sunday, 24 September at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.

This is the repeat of the 2011 final, which South Africa lost.

The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana booked their spot in the final with a dramatic 5-3 victory on penalties over Zambia, after coming back from 3-0 down to level matters 3-3.

Goals by Leandra Smeda (77th and 78th pen) as well Rhoda Mulaudzi (84th) forced the match to the dreaded penalty shootout.

Desiree Ellis, South Africa’s interim head coach, has described the comeback as a nerve-wrecking experience, adding that character, determination and will power won the day for her charges.

“We really played for the badge and for the people back home in South Africa. I have been saying that this group is special and they proved they are indeed special – the victory goes to them, as well as to SAFA and Sasol who have been supportive. I am the kind of person who never gives up, I have never been a quitter. When I was playing in the national team I got dropped four times, but I never gave up. The fighting spirit that they had came to the fore. We saw this fighting spirit in the match against Namibia,” said an emotional Ellis.

The former Banyana Banyana captain is the first to admit that her side did not play well in the first half and at half time she had to remind them of their mission in Bulawayo. She heaped praise on the way the players responded in the second half to turn the tables on Zambia.

“We got the first goal, then the second and the third – at this point we had to calm the players down because they were saying we can still win this before the game is over, but we needed cover at the back because if they counter attack we might get caught. After the penalty shoot out I said a short prayer because it was surely divine intervention from above,” added Ellis.

“I just wish people can see the unity and the togetherness of this team, and that transcends on to the pitch. The penalty takers were magnificent, they raised their hands and said we want to do this. Three players already have gold medals in the COSAFA CUP – Chantelle (Esau), Vivo (Nothando Vilakazi) and Noko (Matlou), I also have one from 2002 but I said to the players, here is your opportunity to make your mark. The players deserve all the credit.”

Banyana will have a breather on Friday (22 September) to celebrate the moment before going back to prepare for the final.

“We are just absorbing the moment, we want to celebrate this achievement, the players deserve that then afterwards we will continue with preparations for the final. It’s a special moment. You talk about Liverpool’s comeback (** Liverpool was training 3-0 at half time in the 2005 final of the UEFA Champions League against Milan, but scored three goals in six minutes to take the game to extra time and won on penalties **)

But if you look at our comeback with 15 minutes left on the clock, it is something to behold, it’s special and I cannot thank the players enough for their effort and the support of the rest of the team members. It was an emotional roller coaster,” said Ellis.

“This is a special group and the future looks bright, it can only get better for womens’s football. We haven’t played since January and the rustiness showed in the first half but character, determination and will power won the day.”

South Africa has won this competition three times – 2002, 2006 and 2008 – and finished as runners up in 2011. The Zimbabweans lost the 2002 final to Banyana Banyana.

In the third and fourth place play-off, Kenya will face Zambia on Saturday, 23 September at Barbourfields Stadium, kicking off at 15h00.

The East African guests lost 4-0 to Zimbabwe in the second semi-final on Thursday, 21 September also at Barbourfields Stadium.

After 20 matches, 96 goals have been scored in the tournament, with two more games still to be played.

THURSDAY’S RESULTS:

Barbourfields Stadium

Zambia 3                                                                                                          South Africa 3

(Banda 21’, Chanda 45’, M. Zulu 73’)                                           (Smeda 77′, 78’pen, Mulaudzi 84’)

Kenya 0                                                                                                            Zimbabwe 4

(Makore 11′, Kabwe 45′, Nyaumwe 53′, Mupeti 89′)

THIRD/FOURTH PLACE OFF

SATURDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2017

At Barbourfields Stadium

Zambia vs Kenya

(13h00)

FINAL:

SUNDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2017

At Barbourfields Stadium

South Africa vs Zimbabwe

(15h00)

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