Desiree Ellis. Picture: SUPPLIED
Desiree Ellis. Picture: SUPPLIED

Banyana Banyana’s preparations for the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup will step up when they participate in the Cyprus Women’s Cup in February.

Coach Desiree Ellis’s charges have been drawn in group A with Czech Republic‚ Finland and North Korea. The Cyprus tournament brings to seven the number of matches‚ including Sweden‚ Netherlands and the US‚ that Banyana are scheduled to play before the World Cup in France.

Reacting to the news‚ Ellis said playing against top-quality opposition will give their World Cup preparations impetus.

“Everyone says we are in a tough group at the World Cup‚ which is true‚ but then again no one said it can’t be done.

“The players and technical team will gain invaluable experience with the matches lined up for our preparation,” she said.

“What more can we ask for? I am just in awe of the programme we have in front of us. What we are looking at are confirmed seven world-class preparation matches against top-class opposition.

“This is exactly in line with how things will be like at the World Cup. And also‚ depending on how we fare at the Cyprus Cup‚ we may just add another match,” Ellis said.

“The US‚ Netherlands and Sweden are in the top 10 in terms of world rankings. Then you have Korea, which will give us a taste of what to expect in France when we face China PR.

“The others will give an indication of what Spain and Germany have to offer at the World Cup. This is just what the doctor ordered in terms of good preparation‚ which needs to be followed by perfect execution at the tournament,” she said.

“I am looking forward to the new year with great anticipation and full of hope.”

Banyana start the new year with a clash against Sweden in a practice match on January 17 behind closed doors‚ followed by a friendly clash against the Netherlands two days later at the Cape Town Stadium in the inaugural Winnie MadikizelaMandela Challenge.

Sweden will return for a full international on January 22. After a short break‚ Banyana will travel to Europe for the Cyprus Wo me n ’s Cup in February, while their next assignment is set for May 12 in Santa Clara against the US.

At the World Cup‚ they start the competition with a fixture against Spain on June 8 in Le Havre, followed by the Chinese national team five days later in Paris. The South Africans’ last group stage match will be against Germany on June 17 in Montpellier.