The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana has departed for Saint-Denis, Reunion Islands where they will lock horns with France in an international friendly match.
The clash takes place on Sunday, 22 January 2017.
Kickoff is at 19h00.
Technical Director of Women’s Football, Fran Hilton-Smith is confident the South Africans can hold their own against their European counterparts, who are ranked 3rd in the world.
Hilton-Smith, who visited the national team at their final training session on Wednesday afternoon (18 January 2017) before the squad jetted off to Reunion Islands believes that even though it will not be an easy encounter, Banyana Banyana have what it takes to return victorious.
It is without doubt going to be a very tough encounter. France is ranked third in the world, and second in their Confederation – I have been fortunate to do the technical study on them in the Women’s World Cup u20,” said Hilton-Smith.
“They are a very tight team, very quick on the ball, fast-paced and very good with the long ball. They have a number of players who have graduated from their u20 team, they really are a formidable force – but I think the way Banyana Banyana is playing at the moment, they have a good chance of holding their own. We can get a good result there.”
The former Banyana Banyana coach believes it is through such matches that the national team will improve in leaps and bounds.
“These are crucial matches. You cannot rate yourself or think how can I improve unless you play the best in the world, so these girls are very lucky to have played the likes of the USA, which is a major achievement. We did very well against them despite narrowly losing 1-0, and I think France is also a massive opportunity to test ourselves. The clash also gives the girls an idea of where they need to improve and if we maintain the momentum it will help SAFA to ensure that we qualify for the next World Cup in France,” added Hilton-Smith.
The only challenge with Banyana Banyana is lack of goals, but Hilton-Smith believes it can be sorted.
“It’s something the coaches have been working on. I think we should have won the 2016 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations because we were the best team there, without a doubt, but we can’t finish,” said Hilton-Smith.
“I spoke to our girls that they need to practice their finishing. I advised them to stay after training and practice, that’s what the top strikers in the world do – they put in hours and hours of hardwork to perfect this task. At the tournament in Cameroon, Nigeria got one chance and scored, Cameroon did the same – we had many chances but didn’t score. I believe it is something they will soon get right.”
Meanwhile there was in injury scare at the last training session when Leandra Smeda limped off and had to watch from the sidelines.
The medical team has been monitoring her progress and are hopeful she will recover in time for the match.