Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says her side will be hoping to further improve their performance when they take on Sweden at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday, writes DYLAN APPOLIS.
The two nations are set to battle it out in the Albertina Sisulu Centenary Challenge in Banyana’s second game of the year, following their 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands over the weekend.
Banyana Banyana and Sweden have met on three occasions, with their most recent game coming last year at the same venue when the Swedish side secured a 3-0 victory over South Africa.
However, Ellis is relishing the chance for her team to test themselves against Peter Gerhardsson’s side, while also giving players the opportunity to stretch their legs as they continue to prepare for the upcoming Fifa Women’s World Cup in June.
‘I think we made a lot of big steps in the game against the Netherlands, if you compare it with our performance against Sweden last year. We had a very short turnaround and that was a challenge as well. I know every game you go into you want to win, but also look at the performance,’ Ellis said.
‘Sweden are a quality team and we have played them on a few occasions. We know what to expect. We are also looking at giving players an opportunity, because this is the [right] time in these games, and of course the Cyprus Cup will be the last opportunity where you can actually look at players.
‘If you don’t test them, how are you going to know if they can play at this level,’ she asked.
‘We’ll try to give as many players the opportunity [as we can] and also see if we can improve on our performance against the Netherlands, that is key for us. Results are key, but looking at improved performances all-round in each department is going to be just as important, because it gives us another opportunity to see what we need to work on.’
The Banyana mentor added that she will only select her core squad for the upcoming Fifa Women’s World Cup once they are done with all their preparations for their debut in the global tournament.
‘You want to utilise the whole squad over the next month or so, because after February and March there is no more time for experiments, you’ve got to have your core group and work with that group,’ Ellis added.
‘The door can never be closed, you’ve got to give hope to players. If I was on the outside and my country qualified for the [Fifa Women’s] World Cup, I would work really hard to try and catch the coach’s attention. The onus is on the players currently in the squad to try and retain their places because you want to take the best players to the World Cup, and that for us is the most important thing, to give an opportunity and give hope to players out there who still want to get into the squad.
‘But as I said, after the Cyprus Cup, unless somebody is really exceptional, with all due respect then you know you’ve got the core group,’ she concluded.
Banyana Banyana will welcome Sweden to Cape Town Stadium when the two sides meet in the Albertina Sisulu Centenary Challenge on Tuesday, with kick-off set for 7pm.
Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
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