JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis reckons now that they know their group stage opponents it will be easier to prepare for the Cosafa Cup tournament. Banyana are in Group A, alongside Botswana, Madagascar and Malawi.
The South Africans, who’ll host the tournament in Port Elizabeth from September 12-22, will play Botswana in the tournament’s first match at either Wolfson Stadium or Gelvendale.
“Now that we know the draw, we can start planning because we’ve got all things up in the air and you don’t know where to start,’’ Ellis, pictured, said during the draw at the Cosafa offices yesterday.
“We know a lot about our first opponents Botswana but we will make sure we really look at the footage that we have. We don’t want to take things for granted like we did last year, where we had to come back from a deficit. The first game of any tournament is important because once you get the three points, you can plan better going forward.’’
Banyana, the fourth-ranked nation in Africa and defending champions of the regional tournament, will be favourites to top Group A. But the 55-year-old Ellis is adamant that there won’t be any pushovers.
“People might think it’s easy, but we’ve always played Botswana and it’s never been,’’ she insisted. “I’ve been impressed with Madagascar from last year’s tournament even though they conceded a number of goals. We have more or less a similar style of play, hence we should be on top of our game.
“I think Malawi is going to be tough as well, they’ve shown at last year’s tournament how good they can be. And when the Chawinga sisters (Tambitha and Temwa) get a chance at goal, they’ll want to put it away.”
Cameroon and Uganda, the third and 22nd-ranked nations in the continent, will compete as guests. This is to increase the tournament’s intensity for countries that are preparing for this year’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations - Banyana, Zambia and Cameroon.
Ellis has assembled her full squad which includes US-based trio Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana. This tournament will serve as a ‘send-off gesture’ to vice-captain Refiloe Jane who recently signed for Australian outfit Canberra United from TUT Ladies.
“We’ve been given permission to have her to be part of the tournament, and I know how much she loves to play for the national team,’’ Ellis said.
“After leading the team to victory last year, we want to give her a fantastic send-off. It will always be at the back of our minds that we play every game to the best of our abilities, as we say ‘thank you’ to her.’’
The coach is banking on local supporters to rally behind the team. “Hopefully we can get the fans behind us and that will make things even better for us going forward,’’ she added.