Banyana Banyana start bid to qualify for African championships with game against Sweden
Coach Desiree Ellis says meeting Sweden will be a fantastic boost for younger players in the side who have not yet come up against such high-quality opposition
Banyana Banyana start their build-up to the 2018 African Women’s Championship with a home meeting against Sweden in Cape Town on Sunday‚ the start of what coach Desiree Ellis says is a "non-negotiable" qualification for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in France in 2019.
Banyana have suffered heartache in their bid to reach the global showpiece in the past‚ despite back-to-back qualification for the Olympic Games.
Now‚ with new players introduced into the squad‚ Ellis is building a combination that she believes can make up for those past disappointments as Banyana look to finish in the top three at the African Women’s Championship in Ghana from November 17 to December 1, and book a place in France.
"Hopefully by the time we reach the Afcon we will be one well-oiled machine, because that is what it is going to take to get to the World Cup‚" Ellis said.
"This whole year it is of the utmost importance that we do the right things and players take care of themselves. When we really need to peak is in November, and that is all we are worried about as a team."
Ellis says meeting Sweden will be a fantastic boost for the younger players in the squad especially‚ who will not have come up against such high-quality opposition in the past.
"What fantastic preparation. Last year [this time] we played France‚ the number three-ranked side in the world; this year we are playing Sweden‚ who are number 10.
"It is a good challenge for our players‚ to see if they can raise their level that little bit higher. The level [at which] we will play against Sweden will be much‚ much higher than any of them have ever [played]. It will be interesting to see what they still need to work on," Ellis said.
"For us the most important thing is the performance; then the result will take care of itself. We pride ourselves on team work — if the team does well, there are always individuals who will stand out."
Ellis said she was delighted at the quality of players in the country and that those who showed they were good enough would be given a chance to play for Banyana.
"As a technical team we said that players that raised their hand would be given an opportunity. Through that‚ players have seen new players coming in and they think to themselves‚ ‘OK‚ if she is given a chance‚ what is stopping me? if I work that little bit harder I will get my chance’.
"We have such a lot of players in pipeline. In our under-17 squad‚ it is frightening the talent that is pushing through. So players need to be on top of their game all the time and as football evolves‚ the team must evolve as well.
Ellis added: "We want to be a national team that belongs to everyone‚ we want to be a national team that gives opportunities."
South Africa lost 4-1 to Sweden at the 2012 Olympic Games‚ and 1-0 in Brazil in 2016.