JOHANNESBURG – There may be just 36 days until the Fifa Women’s World Cup in France but it’s a no-brainer that rookies South Africa must assemble the best squad instead of only the best players.
Banyana Banyana will have a mountain to climb in their maiden World Cup and they’ll need real soldiers for a Group B campaign against China, Germany and Spain.
“We’ll take the best players and best group,” coach Desiree Ellis said. “We want to make sure that when we leave (for France), we do not only have the best players but the best group.”
Banyana assembled for their final preparations on home soil at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus this week, sharpening up for their last tune-up match against world champions the USA on May 12 at Levi's Stadium in California.
“We have an idea of 80 percent or so of the players (going to France), but we cannot discount players raising their hands,” Ellis said. “Training matches is where you want players to play. Yes, we’ve got most of the players but there’s one or two places up for grabs and it’s important we give those players a proper chance, making sure we don’t take (only) the best players but the best group.”
Banyana, who depart for the US on Monday, will be without overseas-based Leandra Smeda (Vittsjo GIK, Sweden), Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo (both at Beijing PG Phoenix) as this trip doesn’t correspond with Fifa dates.
But overseas trio Jermaine Seoposenwe, Nothando Vilakazi (both Gintra Universitetas, Lithuania) and Ode Fulutudilu (Malaga, Spain) are expected to join the squad directly from their clubs.
Some top players are expected to call time on their international careers after France. Skipper Janine van Wyk, the highest capped national team player (men and women) with 165 caps, and Noko Matlou, the first South African to win the Caf Women’s Footballer of the Year award, have apparently expressed a desire to pursue other interests after the tournament.
For now, though, Ellis is hoping to mould a squad that will raise the country’s flag high next month.@Mihlalibaleka