Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana interim coach Desiree Ellis has hailed a productive five-day national team training camp which ended on Thursday in Johannesburg.

Ellis called up 24 players with the aim of putting together a strong squad for qualification to the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations. The event will be held in Ghana and will serve as a qualifier for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup that will take place in France.

“Everything went very well, a lot of players really raised their hands which makes the job of the technical team more difficult,” said Ellis. “I was highly impressed at how quickly they grasped some of the things we were working on. We had a few video sessions to show them exactly what we wanted.”

With a number of new faces in the squad, the emphasis of the camp was on players understanding their roles.

“The focus was on showing them the formations that we are playing; for them to play in certain formations and for them to understand their roles in those positions so that when they go onto the pitch they understand it better.”

Ellis made special mention of the height of the defenders in the squad which could prove a big asset on the international stage.

“To be honest, it’s quite a few who can make the Banyana Banyana grade but it was a worthwhile exercise considering we don’t have much activity for the national team this year," she said. 

"What impressed me the most was that a lot of the defenders this time around were tall because normally we have a short group of players, so this training camp helped a lot. Also, a lot of players have strength, which was pleasing to see, and a lot of the passes and the combination play was marvellous to watch.”

Banyana will be looking ahead to the COSAFA Cup in August, and Ellis will soon begin her preparations for the tournament in earnest.

“I will sit with the technical team to see how we go about preparing for the COSAFA Cup because we want the best players to represent Banyana Banyana and it’s also another way of building a solid squad towards the 2018 AFCON qualifiers.

“We would like to get a nice mix of experienced players and the ones who have just come in because you also want to take them to a different environment, especially outside the country, where the conditions are different – not just playing conditions but everything.

"Sometimes we know how difficult it is when we travel on the continent. Mentally it will challenge them, and that is where you actually see whether they are ready for this level.”