Banyana Banyana advance to WAFCON 2022 final

Banyana Banyana’s late penalty helped them defeat Zambia 1-0 in the semifinals of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) on Monday night at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca Morocco, thanks to the intervention of the video assistance referee (VAR).

Recurring bridesmaids Banyana advanced to their sixth Wafcon final, where they will attempt to improve upon their five previous runner-up performances, thanks to Linda Motlhalo’s conversion of the penalty granted by Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse Abebe in the dying minutes of extra time. When Jermaine Seoposenwe was hauled down, Abebe should have given the penalty kick, but she didn’t until the VAR intervened.

Lebogang Ramalepe, who had seized control of the right-back position, unexpectedly didn’t make the starting lineup, opting instead for the bench. Right-back Bongeka Gamede was preferred.

Due to the knee injury, she acquired in the 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Tunisia, Sibulele Holweni, the typical suspect at left-back, was unable to make the matchday roster. As a result, second-choice left-footed fullback Karabo Dlamini was selected.

Melinda Kgadiete received her first start of the competition to lead Banyana’s attack alongside Seoposenwe. There were no significant lineup changes for Zambia from their prior matches. About 150 Zambians enthusiastically cheered for their team, outnumbering a small group of South Africans led by well-known former Orlando Pirates supporter Joy “Mama Joy” Chauke, who has shifted allegiance to Durban outfit Royal AM.

Vuvuzelas, the infamous plastic “instrument” manufactured in South Africa and became popular during the 2010 World Cup, were used by the Zambian crowd to generate a respectable mood in the enormous venue as they slyly defeated a rival at their own game.

Only 500 seats were occupied due to the poor turnout, which excluded stadium employees and dignitaries. Refiloe Jane and Motlhalo, the coordinators in midfield, helped Banyana keep the ball superbly as usual. However, SA’s excellent interplay too frequently failed to produce a result that could have shaken the Zambian rearguard as Banyana struggled to make box entries.

The first half saw more approaches to the penalty spot for Shepolopolo, whose captain Grace Chanda terrorized Dlamini’s right flank with her speed. By clearing the area, Noko Matlou and Bambanani Mbane forced the Zambian attackers to rush their last pass or finish.

After Noxolo Cesane was hauled down only seconds after the hour mark, Abebe first gave Banyana a penalty, but she swiftly changed her mind and gave Banyana a free-kick as a result of a VAR intervention. The resulting set-piece for Seoposenwe was deflected for a corner.

Dr. Danny Jordaan, the president of the South African Football Association (SAFA), has praised Banyana Banyana after coach Desiree Ellis’ team advanced to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) final on Monday night.“Banyana Banyana achieved this feat on Mandela Day and marked it by clinching a place in the final. We send our congratulations to the team after this massive effort,” Dr Jordaan said.

Banyana players are already assured of receiving R30,000 in bonuses each by making it to the semifinals, as promised by Safa before they left for the competition. Jordaan reaffirmed that the players would receive their bonuses on schedule.

“We will honour our commitment and the players will get paid in time. They know their responsibility and we know our commitment,” said Jordaan.

In the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final, Morocco will play South Africa, both teams seeking to win the championship for the first time.

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