Wafcon 2022: South Africa will be 'punished' without improvement

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South Africa players in action against TunisiaSouth Africa were runners-up at the last Wafcon in 2018 and are looking to win the tournament for the first time

South Africa will be "punished" unless they perform better in their Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) semi-final against Zambia, according to midfielder Linda Motlhalo.

"The fact we needed to qualify for the World Cup put ourselves under pressure, instead of just keeping the ball and playing our football," Motlhalo told BBC Sport Africa.

"We scored a goal and we stopped playing. We could do better. Now we're going to the semi-final, if we don't play we'll get punished."

A first-half goal scored by Jermaine Seoposenwe was enough to see the 2018 Wafcon runners-up through to their second World Cup.

But the South Africans, playing without injured star Thembi Kgatlana, struggled to put away a host of good chances in the second half, were nervy at the back and came under a period of sustained pressure from the Tunisians.

"The main focus was on the objectives we have put as a team," midfielder Refiloe Jane, who was returning from Covid-19, said.

"We needed each other more than ever. We stayed together. We fought for one another and made sure we got the result."

Holders Nigeria face down home fans - and criticism

Christy Ucheibe heads in a goal for NigeriaDefending champions Nigeria lost their opening game against South Africa but have bounced back to beat Botswana, Burundi and Cameroon to reach the last four

Nigeria also booked their Wafcon semi-final place on Thursday, with a gritty 1-0 victory over neighbours Cameroon to reach their ninth successive World Cup.

The Super Falcons will face Morocco for a place in the final, but coach Randy Waldrum says the says the reigning champions are unbothered about facing the hosts - even if the Atlas Lionesses will be roared on by a partisan crowd.

"I have a lot of respect for Morocco. I think they're one of the best sides here in the tournament," the American said.

"I think their goals have pretty much all come off a set pieces of some sort. We know they're very capable and very dangerous in those situations.

"Fans here in Morocco have been fantastic coming out supporting their team so we fully expect it to be a full stadium. I don't think that's a concern.

"Our players have played in big stages. And when you're looking at some of our players that play abroad, most of them are playing in clubs that are playing in front of good crowds.

"Obviously you want the fans on your side. We know that's not going to happen, but I think our players will respond fine with it."

Rasheedat Ajibade's goal against Cameroon set up Monday's crunch clash in Rabat, and the Spain-based forward says Nigeria's players must block out the noise of criticism to have a chance of arriving at the World Cup as African champions again.

"If you are at the top it's a bit stressful - so much pressure to maintain the success or to be at the top," the 22-year-old said.

"But we've been able to build a capacity to absorb whatever pressure is coming in and all sorts of criticism.

"Right now we're not focusing on the criticism. We know the goal ahead of us, so it doesn't matter if they criticise us, it doesn't matter if they're for us.

"What matters is what we can control, which is our consistency in training and building ahead of the next game against Morocco."

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