JOHANNESBURG – Win-less in their last 13 matches, Banyana Banyana will be hoping to return to winning ways when they open their Cosafa Cup title defence against Comoros in Port Elizabeth today.
While 2019 should have been a year to relish; it has, however, been bitter-sweet for Banyana.
Desiree Ellis’ team qualified for their maiden Fifa Women’s World Cup, after finishing as runners-up to Nigeria in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) in December.
However, their preparations were disappointing as they failed to register a win in nine matches. And the South Africans campaign at the global showpiece appeared as somewhat of an epic fail, losing all three group stage matches to China, South Korea and Germany. However, far from despairing, Ellis has backed her troops to continue to wear their hearts on their jersey’s sleeves.
“There’s already pressure getting in the national team,” Ellis said.
“You are representing your country, so the people and your family are looking up to you. You need to take the pressure off by going out there and doing what’s expected of you.
“But we always have a fantastic group of players that come in with a common goal of doing well”
Today we kick off our first match against Comoros in the @COSAFAMEDIA Cup after being out of action since the Womens World Cup.— Janine Van Wyk (@Janinevanwyk5) July 31, 2019
Currently we are the defending champs of this tournament & looking forward to every challenge in order to keep the title.
Let's go team 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/uliBrTQk9u
Despite being dispatched by heavyweights in the World Cup, Banyana head to this tournament with the world of confidence. They’ve, after all, won the last two editions of the Cosafa Cup, while their last triumph was also in PE.
In the bigger scheme of things though, following the roller-coaster of emotions in the last eight months, Banyana will use the Cosafa Cup to find prosperity and the right combinations as they gear-up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualifiers.
“Players (may) think less of the tournament, but we’ll make sure that they say focused,” Ellis stated. “We’ll make them realise that it was this tournament that made us qualify for the World Cup.
“It’s another form of preparations as we aim to qualify for the Olympics.”
With the tournament falling out of the Fifa dates, Ellis will be without her overseas-based players, which includes Jermaine Seopsenwe, Linda Motlhalo, Thembi Kgatlana, Nothando Vilakazi, Leandra Smeda, and Rhoda Mulaudzi. Their absence will, however, give some of the players on the fringes to come into the fore.
Priscilla Pesa (Golden Ladies) will headline the newbies, while Shange Sthembile (Durban Ladies) and Noxolo Cesane (UWC) will also be hoping to make their debuts.
“It (the absence of overseas-based players) doesn’t alter the plans too much, we tried to be true to who we are,” Ellis said.
“We’ll continue to the do that.”@Mihlalibaleka