Ellis to use Cyprus Cup to give whole Banyana squad a run

26 February 2019 - 17:12 By Nick Said
Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis celebrates with her midfield pairing of Jermaine Seoposenwe (R) and Leandra Smeda (L) after their 2-0 Caf Women's Cup of Nation semifinal win over Mali on November 27 2018 at Cape Coast Stadium in Accra, Ghana.
Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis celebrates with her midfield pairing of Jermaine Seoposenwe (R) and Leandra Smeda (L) after their 2-0 Caf Women's Cup of Nation semifinal win over Mali on November 27 2018 at Cape Coast Stadium in Accra, Ghana.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana will open their Cyprus Cup campaign against Finland on Wednesday as coach Desiree Ellis continues to build towards the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France later in the year.

South Africa will play four matches in the prestigious 12-team European tournament‚ with pool games against North Korea on Friday and Czech Republic on Monday‚ and a play-off game to decide their final position.

Ellis has selected largely the same players that did duty against Netherlands and Sweden last month‚ from which the core of her World Cup squad will be chosen.

“Training was really good yesterday‚ today we have worked on a few things like attacking and defensive set-pieces‚ which is really crucial in international football‚ where a lot of goals are scored [from these]‚” Ellis said.

“We have worked a lot on finishing as well‚ so we will see how it goes in the first game.

“We have footage of Finland in their two recent games‚ the first in October against Spain and one in January against Denmark‚ wo we have an idea of what they are capable of.

“We show the players what they are about and give information‚ but we also believe in looking after our own side.

"We work on our team more than concentrating on the opponent. As usual we will have a game-plan and it will be up to the players to execute that.”

Ellis says she will use the tournament to give the whole squad a run and that will mean plenty of changes‚ as well as the full use of six substitutes allowed during games.

“We haven’t seen a couple of players during the Netherlands and Sweden friendlies. It is an ideal opportunity. Yes‚ you want to win the tournament and win matches‚ but this is an opportunity to give players a run to see if they can play at this level or not.

“With the format‚ you can make six substitutes‚ which will help us giving players a run. It means that all of the players will get some game-time.

Banyana‚ appearing at the Cyprus Cup for the seventh time‚ will be without Koketso Tlailane through injury for the Finland game‚ and possibly the tournament as she continues to be monitored.

There are also potential milestones for midfielder Refiloe Jane‚ who is on 99 caps‚ and defender Noko Matlou‚ who has 149.

Ellis led Banyana to their best ever finish at the Cyprus Cup in 2018‚ sixth‚ and is hoping for even better this time round.

“Last year the Cyprus Cup was key for us. It gave us the extra push and confidence going forward. We know the bigger picture is the World Cup and this is a key part of that preparation.

“Physically we are further ahead than we were last year‚ but we are looking for improved performance‚ that is key for us. Playing four games will really help us in this regard.

“The players are excited‚ knowing that if they do well they have a chance of playing in the final. Over the years we have consistently improved our positions.”

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