As Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies prepares to face host, Athletico FC in the last Group A match of the 2023 CAF Women’s Champions League in Ivory Coast on Friday, the head coach of the 2021 winners and South African champions, Jerry Tshabalala says his team is not ready to do the host any favour.
After two games, Sundowns have sealed qualification into the semi-final of the tournament with a game to spare.
Athletico FC with a point needs to win the game to stand any chance of making it to the last four which Tshabalala is not ready to succumb to.
“On a lighter note, I know that we are playing against the hist but we are not willing to do them any favours. It is a big tournament for us. We are here to win the tournament. We have done well by qualifying with a game to spare. With that, we can have a few players have a couple of rest. As a coach, if you don’t use the entire squad in the tournament, it comes with a lot of risks because there are yellow cards and injuries which we need to be very conscious of.,” Tshabalala stated during his pre-match comments ahead of the game on Friday.
“We are going to treat all teams with respect. We don’t want that complacency to crip in. They (Athletico FC) also have the chance of qualifying from the group. They are a good side. Maybe one or two things they can fix. They are a side that can give us closer challenges in terms of physique. We are just going to play our normal game.
“The fact that we keep ball possession doesn’t make us concede. We deny our opposition’s possession. When you don’t have possession, you won’t be able to score goals. If you have a lot of possessions, you stand a good chance of scoring more goals. In defence, we also play our role which is to try and keep a clean sheet. The attackers also play their roles in terms of scoring goals. I would say it is a collective effort. All the departments play crucial roles.”
With qualification sealed, the coach desires to have more of his players on the team as some remained at home due to the competition regulation of 21 players.
He said: “We have a very big squad. We have 27 players but due to the fact that the competition requires 21 players, we have to cut it down to that reason. Six of our players are not part of the team. We loved to bring all our players here. For our next game against Athletico FC, we have got a few injuries. The medical team is working very hard to see that everyone is available. Unfortunately, one or two of our players are not available.
“We review each and every game that we play and the games that we are going to play. Qualification for the semi-final means nothing to us. The most important thing is seeing ourselves winning the trophy.
“As a coach, you have to play each and every player in terms of how we approach the game and the style of play that we want the ladies to play. Some players might get more playing time tomorrow than others. It depends on how we want to play. ”
Captain of the team, Kholosa Biyana expects the team to go all the way to the final in their bid to reclaim the title they lost to ASFAR FC last year after winning the maiden edition in Egypt.
“This is my first CAF Champions League. It is not all about the qualification. I just want to help the team. The team is always motivated even for the previous games. Last year, we lost in the final.
“It is not all about individuals but how we as a team have to play and follow the game plan. We just have to follow that. Whoever shines or complements any player doesn’t matter as long as at the end of the day the team wins. Everyone in the team is as important as the next player who plays whether on or off. When we work together, think we make better decisions.” She concluded.