Slow-starting South Africa must shape up for women's World Cup, warns coach

AMIENS, France (Reuters) - A lengthy traffic delay and a dismal first-half were behind South Africa's crushing 7-2 women's World Cup warm-up loss to Norway on Sunday according to coach Desiree Ellis, who warned her players to shape up or face embarrassment at the global showpiece tournament.

The match kicked off 75 minutes late as South Africa were caught in traffic on their way from their training base in Rouen to the Stade Moulonguet in Amiens. The team then conceded four goals in the opening 22 minutes and were 5-0 down by halftime.

"A trip that should have taken one-and-a-half hours took way more than that. We left at 5pm and got there at 8.45pm… the game eventually started at 9.15pm, so everything was rushed," Ellis said.

"Yet we could have still done better. We should have done our tasks better. Some of the goals we conceded were really poor. We spoke about who the danger players were going to be, but we didn’t pick them up. We were very loose at times, not tracking players."

Ellis has been frustrated by a number of poor starts by the World Cup debutants this year, with South Africa conceding early goals regularly during their 10-game winless run.

"The first 20 minutes was terrible, we didn’t do justice to ourselves. We took a look at ourselves at halftime, we came out spirited and on top of scoring two goals, we had other chances. We put up a big fight in the second half," the coach said.

"We really have to start better, there are too many times that we lose the game in the first 30 minutes. We come back and we score goals, but we are so far behind that we can’t catch up."

South Africa open their World Cup against Spain in Le Havre on Saturday.

"The focus is now on Spain, they are technically very good. We have to start really well, coming from such a bad day in the office we have to take a hard look at ourselves," said Ellis.

"The players need to call each other out. It is important that we critically analyse ourselves, it is the only way we can improve."

South Africa have also been pooled with China and Germany in Group B in France.

(Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Tony Lawrence)

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