South Africa’s women’s poor results at the Cyprus Cup must be put into the context of experimentation and inexperience, says coach Desiree Ellis.
Banyana Banyana are set to play in their first Fifa Women’s World Cup later this year.
They finished 10th out of 12 teams at the week-long warm-up tournament in Cyprus.
After an opening draw with Finland (2-2), they lost to North Korea (4-1), the Czech Republic (2-1) and in a rematch against the Finns (3-0).
The results do not inspire confidence before the World Cup starts – particularly as none of the countries they played qualified for the 24-team tournament in France.
In June, South Africa will play two-time champions Germany, 1999 runners-up China and Spain in Group B.
But Ellis says there were more positives than negatives from the team’s Cyprus experience.
“It is about results, but for us it is about the bigger picture too, the much bigger picture, the World Cup,” she said.
“The results didn’t come, but in all areas we were not as bad as the results showed, it is just those few moments and then you get punished.
“We had a lot of new players playing,” she added, insisting that the team’s good performances were not reflected in the results.
“We dominated in all areas except the scoreboard. Our movement with and without the ball was much better, our rotation of the ball was good, but at this level the smallest mistake you make is punished.
“We have spoken about it before and it is something we really need to minimise. If you get a chance to score a goal, you have to take it,” she said.
“It is not that we didn’t have scoring opportunities, we had plenty. But at a higher level you need to be quicker – you need to make decisions quicker, to react quicker, they don’t give you as much time as you get playing other opposition.”
Ellis used the tournament to look at new talent.
“We needed to give other players a chance. We had a new, in terms of caps, team on the pitch and they gave a good account of themselves. We had a few question marks, but now there are less of those.
“We spoke in the beginning of the year about the preparation, using the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as this tournament, to really have a look at new players, because the most experienced players play most of the time.
“We wanted to give the others more time to play, because then you can see what you have. If players are not made to come out of their comfort zone then you don’t know what you can get out of them.”
South Africa’s women are due to go into a full-time training camp next month.
They will then travel to the USA in May for another friendly match as part of their preparations for the World Cup.