10 January 2018 – Interim head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis, says the year 2018 is a defining one for her side.

The first assignment for the South African Senior Women’s National is a clash against Sweden, one of the top footballing nations.

They are ranked 10th in the world and fifth in Europe.

Ellis has named a squad of 26 players – with midfielder Xolisile Mnikathi of Sunflower FC in KwaZulu Natal called up to replace former Banyana Banyana captain, Amanda Dlamini, who withdrew from the squad after she retired from international football on Tuesday, 9 January.

Banyana Banyana, who are Africa’s Women’s National Team of the Year and COSAFA Champions, will face Sweden in a practice match behind closed doors on Thursday, 18 January.

This will be followed three days later by an international friendly (Sunday, 21 January 2017) at the Cape Town Stadium.

Kickoff is at 14h00.

The South Africans assemble in Cape Town on Sunday, 14 January to commence preparations for the two encounters.

SAFA Media spoke to Ellis about this match and the year ahead.

Matlhomola Morake:     How crucial is this match against Sweden

Desiree Ellis:                        Our last match was against Burkina Faso but now it’s full steam ahead for a very big year. Once again we are grateful to Sasol and SAFA that we are playing a top 10-ranked team. The level and pressure will be much higher than some of the players have faced before. It’s also a way of measuring where we are as a team and as individuals, and also what we still need to do to be a well-oiled team. It also gives our players an opportunity to raise their hands and to possibly get scouted to play in one of the top leagues in the world.

 

MM:                                           How important is the year 2018 for Banyana Banyana?

 

DE:                                               Extremely important! This is the opportunity to first of all qualify for the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations which will be played in Ghana, and we are well aware that it doubles up as a 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier – where the top three will qualify. Our target as a team is to win the 2018 AWCON because any team that plays a match or goes to a tournament wants to win it, and we are no different. But if we fall short, then we want to make sure we get one of those three spots available for qualification. For now, though, the focus is on the Sweden game, and this will be followed by the Cyprus Cup (details will be released later) at the end of February – so this is great preparation so early in the year.

MM:                                           You have recalled the overseas-based players for the clash against Sweden?

DE:                                               The overseas based players were not available for the 2017 Cosafa Cup and the international friendly against Burkina Faso late last year because FIFA dates did not cover the Cosafa Cup and all of the players who are at universities were in the final stages of their leagues in October. Stephanie Malherbe and Robyn Moodaly are unfortunately not available for the Sweden game – Stephanie took a year off from her studies during for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and is now trying to catch up at university. Robyn is also trying to push to finish early, so she has already returned to the USA and has been there since the beginning of the year. We get regular updates on the US-based players’ game time and performances. We already had a look at Nomvula Kgoale last year and she is also still part of the core group of players.

MM:                                           The new players, especially those you saw at the 2017 Sasol League National Championship in Nelspruit?

DE:                                               We have always maintained that if players raise their hands, we have to reward them with a call-up to the national team. We spent a whole week in Nelspruit in December at the Sasol Championship and we saw good, raw talent. This match against Sweden provides us with a chance to see if they can step up to a higher level, without putting them under too much pressure. We will see what happens at training before making a decision whether to include them in the matches or not, but it is important that we bring them closer to see what they have to offer at national team level. We could have called up more, but we have to gradually introduce them to the system and not rush them.

MM:                                           Is this the core of the team that will feature in this important year for Banyana Banyana?

DE:                                               This is a national team, and you can’t guarantee anyone a place due to injuries, loss of form or even better players coming up. But the fact is, the door is never closed on anyone. And yes, we have a core group of players but will always look at what is still needed to improve the team – because that should never stop. For instance we have also been monitoring midfielder Mamello Makhabane, who has been out since she sustained a hamstring injury at the 2016 Sasol National Championship in Mosselbaai. She is back in full training now and we are looking forward to see her play for her club to see what she can offer.

Fact file:

  • This will be the third time South the two nations meet
  • The first clash took place in 2012 at the London Olympic Games – Sweden won the match 4-1
  • Their last meeting was also at the Olympic Games – in 2016 in Brazil, where South Africa lost 1-0
  • Sweden is currently ranked 10th in the world and 5th in Europe, while South Africa is 54nd and 5th in the world and on the African continent respectively.

UPDATED Banyana Banyana squad to face Sweden:

Goalkeepers:

1. Andile DLAMINI Mamelodi Sundowns FC Johannesburg
2. Yolula TSAWE JVW FC Johannesburg
3. Kaylin SWART Menlo College USA
 Defenders
4. Nothando VILAKAZI Palace Super Falcons FC Johannesburg
5. Noko MATLOU Ma –Indies FC Polokwane
6. Janine VAN WYK Houston Dash USA
7. Bambanani MBANE Bloemfontein Celtic Bloemfontein
8. Lebohang RAMALEPE Ma-Indies Polokwane
9. Regina MOGOLOLA University Pretoria Pretoria
10. Zanele NHLAPO Mamelodi Sundowns Johannesburg
11. Yonelo KETO Thunderbirds Port Elizabeth
 Midfielders
12. Leandra SMEDA UWC Ladies Cape Town
13. Refiloe JANE TUT-PTA Pretoria
14. Xolisile MNIKATHI Sunflower FC KwaZulu Natal
15. Kholosa BIYANA UKZN KwaZulu Natal
16. Kgaelebane MOHLAKOANA Bloemfontein Celtic Bloemfontein
17. Amogelang MOTAU Oral Roberts University USA
18. Rachel SEBATI TUT–PTA Pretoria
19. Neliswa LUTHULI Sunflower FC KwaZulu Natal
20. Nompumelelo NYANDENI JVW FC Johannesburg
 Forwards
21. Melinda KGADIETE Bloemfontein Celtic Bloemfontein
22. Thembi KGATLANA UWC Ladies Cape Town
23. Kelso PESKIN Lamar University / UWC Ladies FC USA /Cape Town
24. Jermaine SEOPOSENWE Samford University USA
25. Chantelle ESAU Mamelodi Sundowns Johannesburg
26. Sduduzo DLAMINI Sunflower FC        KwaZulu Natal

 

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