JOHANNESBURG – Bnyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis oozes confidence that they should be able to retain their Cosafa Cup title, especially with the morale boost of the availability of overseas based players.
These include Houston Dash trio Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana. Banyana will host the regional tournament in Port Elizabeth from September 12 - 22.
“It’s important that we select the best that we can,” said Ellis during the squad announcement yesterday. “It’s always a difficult selection, to be honest, the worst part is telling someone that they didn’t make it. We are very grateful the experience is there, and we hope this tournament can give ‘Fifi’ (Refiloe Jane) a very good send-off as she going to Canberra United in Australia.”
Van Wyk, Motlhalo and Kgatlana were all in action for the Dash over the weekend as they recorded a 6-1 win over Sky Blue FC in their last home fixture of the season. Motlhalo opened the scoring with her first goal of the season, while Kgatlana also got her name on the scoresheet after a lovely solo run.
“They had a very good weekend, so they come with good form,” Ellis insisted. “And I believe that will help the national team throughout the tournament. Kgatlana is the current Cosafa Cup Player of the Tournament, so you can imagine the wealth of experience she brings together with captain Janine. We also welcome the availability of exciting Motlhalo, who’ll fill the void left by injured duo Rachel Sebati and Mamello Makhabane.
“Hence, I agree that it was fantastic that they became available.”
Cameroon and Uganda, third and 22nd ranked nations in Africa, will also join the regional competition as invited guest. They were roped in to increase the intensity of the competition. For Banyana, the Cosafa tournament serves as preparation for this year’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations tournament which will be hosted in a venue set to be announced by Caf. Ghana were stripped of the bid due to slow progress in preparations with only two months to go.
“It is not only about winning the title, but the tournament also brings confidence to the players ahead of the Awcon,” Ellis insisted.
“We’ll also be banking on continuing with the momentum leading up to Awcon. Playing a tournament of this nature and with the quality of Cameroon coming here, will add a lot of value in our preparations.”
But the 55-year-old coach says it will be a huge mistake to write off the rest of the teams.
“You cannot underestimate anyone,” Ellis explained. “The rankings only really matter when you play the really big top nations. For instance, when you are South Africa and Zimbabwe, teams come out and play because they want to beat you. Obviously, Cameroon will be one of the big guns there but we have to be prepared as much we can.”
The 12 team will be divided into three pools, each containing four teams. The top teams from each pool, together, will the best runners-up, will make the semi-finals.@Mihlalibaleka