From left, Beauty Dlulane (Member of Parliament), Lindiwe Sisulu (Minister of International Relations), Safa president Danny Jordaan, Zondwa Mandela, Banyana coach Desiree Ellis, Nozipho Mbatha (Sasol) and Cape Town mayor Dan Plato at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is hoping to use the upcoming Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Challenge and Albertina Sisulu Centenary friendlies against the Netherlands and Sweden respectively to gauge her team’s progress over the past 12 months.

Banyana have certainly enjoyed a stellar last year under Ellis, who was named Caf Women’s Coach of the Year recently, since Sweden beat them 3-0 at Cape Town Stadium.

In that period, the national team have won the Cosafa Cup, finished runners-up at Afcon, and qualified for the Fifa World Cup for the first time.

One of the major challenges that the European team will pose to Banyana is their physicality, particularly in the aerial challenges due to their height advantage.

Ellis, though, feels that her team showed in Ghana that they can compete – and even beat – teams that are physically stronger than them if they stick to their unique style of football.

“At Afcon, we were true to who we were. We knew we couldn’t compete physically with the Nigerians, Ghanaians, Equatorial Guinea. Putting the ball on the ground was a key for us. We never waived from that. We kept playing our own way,” Ellis said at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday.

“I think that was important that we did not change because of the technical ability that we do have. We saw in the match last year against Sweden that we might have lost 3-0, but the result was not a true reflection of the game.

“We could have scored on many occasions, and our finishing has improved a bit. It is one area that has to improve.

“We are a team that are always going to create chances, but we have to improve because at the World Cup, we might only get one chance.”

Ellis stressed that it was crucial that Banyana identified the brand of football they wanted to play, particularly with the players at their disposal.

“It is important to play to our strengths. I think technically, our players are quite good. We are never going to be winning playing balls in the air, although we do have central defenders and midfielders who are really good in the air.

“But if we have someone like Thembi (Kgatlana) or even Amanda (Mthandi), they are tiny, but very quick,” added Ellis.

“But we have shown in that goal against Nigeria that we won the first ball, then the second, and then Thembi was gone and what a fantastic goal.

“The Nigerian coach said our counter-attacks are good. That is the type of football we want to play, and we pride ourselves on being defensively sound.

“We are now playing Netherlands and Sweden, who can play both ways, so it is a good test for us.”

Banyana face Netherlands on Saturday at 3pm at Cape Town Stadium, before taking on Sweden on Tuesday at 7pm. 


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