by Agnes Amondi
Ahead of their first international friendly match against Zambia on Saturday, South Africa women’s football head coach Desiree Ellis observed that her squad is getting back to shape with players gelling properly and training going on as planned.
At the same time, the two time CAF Women’s coach of the year recognised that the opponents in their upcoming twin friendlies (Zambia and Botswana) are ahead in their preparations as they managed to go into camp before them, amidst the global health crisis.
“Our prepararions are going well. Even so, I think Zambia is ahead of us in terms of preparations as they are getting ready for the Olympics, Botswana have been in camp for two weeks now. That’s a challenge for us but we want our players to be able to raise their level. Otherwise, training has been well,” Desiree Ellis noted.
“We were rusty in the COSAFA Cup 2019 especially at the beginning but the players are gelling quite well. What’s left is to get the right combinations especially with Kgatlana and Noko around. Both have not played with this group of players and we want them to be able to understand one another which is why we had the initial camp at the start of the year. We’ve only got this year to keep everything flowing smoothly before the Women Cup of Nations qualifiers,”
Further, the gaffer revealed she was surprised by the Copper Queens squad as it mostly featured local based players with only China based Barbra Banda, the only player from abroad in the team. As for Botswana, Ellis acknowledged her familiarity with their fellow COSAFA based team. However, with little information on their squad, she said they are ready for “the Botswana we know” but is cautious of any “unforeseen outcomes.”
“We’ve seen the Zambian squad and I am surprised that it has lots of home based players. Only Barbra Banda comes from abroad and some U-17 players but that is probably a plan that they have,”
“Botswana has always been a difficult opponent to play but because we know so much of each other, this might be a difficult game. We don’t have any information on their squad but we prepare for the Botswana that we know and how they are going to play. We have no option but to be ready.”
This is the second time Banyana Banyana have been in camp this year with the squad largely made up of local based players. That said, Spanish based trio of Amanda Mthandi, Thembi Kgatlana and Noko Matlou linked up with the team, a development that Ellis welcomed. Also, she expressed her delight at SD Eibar’s forward Kgatlana who’s been on form with ten goals so far in the Spanish league.
“She’s scored ten goals with five or six assists so far. Those are top stats for a striker and its good for us that she is in this kind of form. It shows that she has worked on her finishing which is something we have been having a problem with. If we converted more chances in the games we played in the past, we would have won more. Goals win you games and this is something we are keen on.”
Ellis also discussed the resumption of the Sasol League which returns this Saturday.
“It is exciting. Sasol league has been our breeding ground. All of these players in the national team, even for our COSAFA selection came from the league. I am looking forward to the opportunity of going round the country doing selection. We choose players regardless of the league they are in provided they meet our selection criteria. And Sasol League provides this. I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have Sasol League.” The tactician concluded.
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