2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview: South Africa

Buda MendesGetty Images

The South African Women’s National Team has been on an inspiring run to their first-ever 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as the combination of exciting young players and the veteran experience of manager Desiree Ellis has supporters ready to shock the world in France. The team is one of the most attack-minded in the tournament, with a goalscoring ability that is second to none, according to reports by The Guardian. This talent was made clear in 2018 when the national team scored in 10 consecutive matches. While the scoring rate is surprisingly low in comparison to chances created, South Africa will be a threat to even the strongest defensive teams if they can get things clicking.

The South African squad is full of players based in clubs across the world that are some of the finest goalscorers and playmakers in the sport, including Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Refiloe Jane, and Leandra Smeda. There is much positive to go on as the South African women enter the tournament, but it can’t be ignored that for all of their scoring, the team has been on a poor run of form since losing the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, with defense becoming a glaring weakness. Since that defeat, South Africa has gone seven matches without a victory.

Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa watches the ball during the Women's Group E first round match between South Africa and China PR on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Featured image credit: Buda MendesGetty Images

Even more worrying is the team’s record against teams outside of Africa, having not secured a victory since March of 2018. While Ellis has an exciting team at her disposal, if they can’t bring their form in Africa to France, the firepower may be going in the opposite direction. At the same time, the extended run of matches against the more physical and organized teams of the world could prove to be a valuable experience when they arrive on the sport’s biggest stage.

South Africa has developed several different styles since Ellis took over the team in 2016, as the manager has gained a reputation as a tactician that can exploit opponents’ weaknesses while making the most of the team’s attacking strength. It will be a valuable asset if South Africa hopes to make an impact in the tournament.

While they were done no favors after FIFA placed them in a group with Germany, Spain, and China, teams all ranked in the world top 20, South Africa possesses an energy and talent that will impress fans who tune in. Making it to the knockout stages may be a step too far in their first tournament, but South Africa should be expected to give a good account of themselves, no matter who they face.