JOHANNESBURG – Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has described qualifying for the 2019 Women’s World Cup that will be held in France as “non-negotiable’’.
The country's women national team beat Lesotho 7-0 on aggregate to qualify for this year’s Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) which will be held in Ghana from November 17 to December 1. They now need to finish in the top three at the tournament to book a place at next year’s global showpiece.
Ellis reckons the women’s Under-17 national team (Bantwana) qualification for this year’s World Cup that will be held in Uruguay from November 13 to December 1, has set a precedence they must follow.
“The U-17s have qualified and they have set a benchmark,” Ellis said. “So for us to qualify for next year’s World Cup is not negotiable. I think it’s also payback time to the South African Football Association (SAFA) and (our main sponsor) Sasol for the wonderful, continued support that they have given us. It’s up to the players now and they all know what’s at stake.’’
Banyana have participated in all the continental tournaments since 1995, finishing runners up on four occasions. They are yet to be crowned continental champions.
However, the 55-year-old coach is not bothered by the shortcomings of the past but is rather banking on her current squad to do the job.
“When a team is not going to a tournament to win, then they should stay at home,” Ellis explained. “The players are motivated because they know it’s a huge task to qualify.”
“In 2014 we lost out in the third-place play-offs but we had a lot of opportunities (that we didn’t finish). In 2016, we repeated the same mistakes. We’ve been working hard in training on our finishing everyday but the players also have to do the same and work individually on their finishing. If we can convert 10% of the chances we create, we’ll be up there. Yes, it’s going to be tough but it is achievable.”
Banyana's scoring abilities looked to be on track when they hammered Lesotho 6-0 win in the second leg following a narrow 1-0 win in the first. Far from getting carried away, Ellis says she’ll not hesitate to call on former Bafana Bafana sharpshooters to assist her striking force.
“It’s a process, so if we have to call the likes of Phil Masinga and Mark Williams to assist, we’ll do that.”