South Africa has commenced preparations for the qualifiers of the Total Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2018, due to kick start later in the year.
Sequel to that, Head Coach, Desiree Ellis has been organising series of training camps for the Banyana Banyana since last June to gauge their readiness for the qualifiers for the 11th edition of the showpiece women’s football championship.
Ellis, a pioneer of women’s football in her native country, has been in charge of the women’s team in an interim capacity since October 2016. In her maiden competitive outing, she guided Banyana to fourth place at the last Women’s Africa Cup of Nations held in Cameroon in November 2016.
A recently held camp saw a number of new faces to the Banyana set up, something the coach believes will serve as healthy competition in the squad.
“We have been on an extensive search for talent through the women’s league roadshows that were recently conducted where we identified some good players who are capable of representing the country.
“We obviously have a core group of players who have the experience of such competitions but we need to keep everyone on their toes and ensure that no one is comfortable or is assured of a place,” Ellis said.
The top three teams at the Ghana-bound tournament will represent Africa at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019, and the South African trainer has set sights on one of the three slots.
Banyana have yet to qualify for the women’s version of the Mundial since the team was officially formed back in 1993, a historical statistic that Ellis is determined to rewrite.
The South Africans narrowly missed out on a place at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, after finishing outside of the top three at the 2014 Women’s AFCON held in Namibia.
As a result, the 54-year-old coach has called up seven new players into the squad with the hope of boosting the team’s front line.
“We created so many scoring opportunities but were just unfortunate not to go through. The same thing happened to us last year. We finished fourth again. If a tournament could be won by a team which created most scoring chances, I truly believe that we could have been that team,” said Ellis.
The South Africans will be using the impending regional COSAFA Women’s Championship scheduled for 9-17 September 2017 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, as the final phase of fine tuning their Women’s AFCON qualifier preparations.