Brazilians on the brink of continental history
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are on the cusp of continental history as they lock horns with Ghanaian side Hasaacas Ladies in the final of the inaugural edition of the TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt on Friday.
The Brazilians booked their place in the final of the continent’s premier women’s tournament thanks to a dramatic 5-4 penalty shootout victory against Equatorial Guinea’s Malabo Kings in their semi-final clash. On the other hand, the Ghanaian outfit sealed their spot in the final after ousting Morocco’s ASFAR 2-1 in the other semi-final clash.
Road to the final
After ruthlessly dominating the Hollywoodbets Super League this season, Banyana Ba Style made their way to Egypt with one clear mandate; sealing the deal on the continental stage. In the build-up to the historic tournament, Coaches Jerry Tshabalala and Agnes Nkosi constantly spoke of ‘tackling the games one step at a time’. Thus far, their charges have adjusted to the high-level competition the team has faced from the get-go.
Sundowns Ladies bossed Group B thanks to consecutive 1-0 wins over Kenya’s Vihiga Queens and Nigeria’s Rivers Angels in their opening two group matches and registered a goalless draw against Morocco’s ASFAR. Thus, the South Africans finished as Group B winners with 7 points accumulated and no goal conceded. The Chloorkop side then displayed nerves of steel from 12-yards in the semi-final match-up against Malabo Kings after no goals were scored in regulation time and extra time.
With just 90 minutes or more separating the Banyana Ba Style from continental greatness, Coach Tshabalala believes the team is ready for what will be his side’s most important game in their history.
“It is such a privilege that we are playing the final of this historic competition. We have taken time to analyse the strengths of our opponents and we currently have a holistic idea of their styles and approaches. As you can see, they have certain weaknesses and that has been evident in the number of goals (four) conceded. We are ready to etch our names into the record books,” stated Coach Tshabalala.
Incredible defensive displays
One of the most remarkable highlights in Egypt has been the energetic and brutal defensive displays of Sundowns Ladies. The Brazilians remain the only side yet to concede a single goal at the tournament. Thanks to the tireless performances of Captain Zanele Nhlapho, Bambanani Mbane, and Karabo Makhurubetshi, the South African have built an impenetrable defensive line.
Behind that well-oiled backline, the goalkeeping duo of Asa Rabalao and Andile Dlamini have impressed in Egypt. While Rabalao dazzled in the first two group games, fit-again Dlamini was a brick wall in the third group game as well as the semi-final penalty win over the Kings. With two clean sheets each to their name, both shot-stoppers will be gunning for the starting berth in Friday’s showdown. Such a good headache!
The Brazilians who boast of an impregnable defence will be facing the Ghanaians who have scored the most goals at the tournament with 10 strikes. These contrasting strengths have led to pundits and fans alike labelling the final as the clash between the ‘best defense’ against the ‘best attack’.
“Well, this is a very tricky one, but one thing I know is that; defenders win you tournaments, while strikers win you games. Football is a team sport and that is why we treat all units (defence, midfield and attack) of our team with equal attention. We know that we are a free-scoring team and I am confident that my team will find their scoring boots in the final. Whenever we are faced with tough oppositions, we always find a way to negate their threats and this final will not be an exception,” concluded the highly experienced gaffer.
Masandawana has enjoyed an incredible run of form across all competitions this year. Coach Tshabalala’s troops are yet to concede in Egypt, an astonishing run that has spanned almost 400 minutes of football without picking the ball from their net. The last time the Sundowns Ladies’ defence was breached in any competition was against First Touch Ladies in the Hollywoodbets Super League in the middle of October, stretching back to an incredible 660 minutes of football without conceding.
Although these defensive numbers have been magnificent, midfielder Chuene Morifi has urged the team to covert the chances created in the final third.
“We have been very strong defensively throughout the tournament and our defensive numbers give me so much joy. However, we need to finish the opportunities we create in the final third. We have been working hard on this aspect of our game since the semi-final victory and we are confident of showing our clinical finishing in the final,” stated the pacy attacking midfielder.
Having already made history by becoming one of the first two teams to compete in the CAF Women’s Champions League final, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies will be keen to become the first-ever winners of the continent’s premier women’s tournament.
The clash against Hasaacas Ladies will be played on Friday at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo. The kick-off time for the massive showdown is 19h00.