Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk believes Zambia and Kenya will also be tough group opponents. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk has described the draw for the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations tournament as “tough and very interesting”.

The competition runs from November 17 to December 1 in Ghana. South Africa are in Group B alongside Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya, while the hosts are in Group A with Cameroon, Algeria and Mali.

“It is a very interesting draw for us. If we were in either group, it would be considered as a tough group.

“Women’s football in Africa is developing enormously. There are no more easy teams that we will be facing now. I think it is a tough group we are in, and we are looking forward to competing in the tournament,” said Van Wyk.

While many talk about Nigeria in Group B, the South African defender believes all the teams are a threat.

Banyana’s first match in the Afcon will be against defending champions Nigeria on Sunday, November 18.

“These are all great opponents we have played and faced before. They never give us an easy run, so we need to prepare well for every team because they are all different,” added Van Wyk at a training session.

“The first game is really crucial for us, it is a game between rivals. But I think in the past we have been slow starters in tournaments, and we need to change that and go with the perspective of attacking from the onset.

“We just need to go out there and not show any fear. Most of us here in the squad are highly experienced and we have played them numerous times, we must just go for it.”

The second fixture sees South Africa face Kenya on Wednesday, November 21. The first two matches will be played in the city of Cape Coast.

For the final group stages encounter, Banyana Banyana will travel to the capital Accra to take on Zambia on Saturday, November 24.

The tournament kicks off with the hosts playing against Algeria at the Accra Sports Stadium. The top two sides in the groups will progress to the semi-finals.

This year’s competition, to be held in the West African country for the first time, also serves as the African qualifiers to the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup. 

The top three teams will qualify for the World Cup to be held in France in June next year.

Following a two-week break after the tour of Chile in South America, Banyana Banyana are now back in camp preparing for Afcon.

Head coach Desiree Ellis has selected a squad of 31 players, which will be trimmed down to 21 on Friday.

“It was a good 10-day break for us to refresh and recharge our batteries. I think everyone is doing well here at training and making it difficult for the coach to select her final squad – which is good competition for us,” added Van Wyk.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis will have some difficult selection calls to make for the final squad. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

“From here on, we just to build on what we need in terms of challenges that we have been having against opponents, but I am pretty sure that when we get to the tournament, we will be ready, fit and prepared to compete in Ghana.”

Meanwhile, Ellis has called up Busisiwe Ndimeni of TUT for the injured Siyamthanda Skeyi of Thunderbirds.

This is the third change following the withdrawal of Finland-based striker Ode Fulutudilu and USA-based Amogelang Motau, who were replaced by Sduduzo Dlamini (Sunflower FC) and Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC).

African News Agency (ANA)