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Banyana all set for Olympic qualifiers

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“When the competition comes around, and you are the defending champions, you want to win it again. Likewise, this year, we got another fantastic achievement from the whole group,”

Thinasonke Mbuli, Assistant coach and Desiree Ellis, coach of South Africa during the 2019 International Friendly South Africa Women Training Session at the UJ Stadium, Soweto on the 01 May 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Fresh from guiding her troops to their third Cosafa Championship title in a row, Desiree Ellis (pictured) is adamant the invaluable lessons they’ve learned from the regional tournament will come in handy during the Olympic Games qualifiers. On Sunday, Banyana Banyana bagged their sixth crown in seven finals after defeating Zambia in the final by 1-0 at Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

This tournament served as the huge morale booster for the South Africans, who were at their lowest following the 13-game win-less streak this year – which included three defeats at their maiden Fifa Women’s World Cup campaign.

“When the competition comes around, and you are the defending champions, you want to win it again. Likewise, this year, we got another fantastic achievement from the whole group,” Ellis said.

“We were dominant in our games. Besides players being different for the Woman of the Match awards, but that shows how dominant we were in our performances”

However, in the bigger scheme of things, this tournament served as the curtain-raiser for the South Africans as they fine-tuned their preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games qualifiers which begin away to Botswana on August 30. And the South Africans will be out to make a bold statement in their third Olympics Games, having been winless in 2012 and 2016.

“I think it (the Cosafa) was a great preparation for the qualifiers,” Ellis said. “We played teams that had different styles, and that helped the team to mature and grow. The players that are not here, some of them are playing in the Uefa Champions League and that’s experience that you cannot buy – the competition is of the highest order.

“We also know that Botswana has a camp in Slovakia, so that shows how serious they are taking it. And Botswana has always given us a tough time, so we’ve got to make sure that we are always on top of our game.”

With the regional tournament outside the Fifa dates, Ellis was without her overseas-based players. Rhoda Mulaudzi (Apollon Ladies FC), Jermaine Seoposenwe, Nothando Vilakazi (Gintra-Universitetas), Letago Madiba and Rachel Sebati (FC Minsk), all made their Uefa Champions League debuts in their team’s preliminary rounds.

While Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana continued their impressive exploits for Beijing BG Phoenix FC in the Chinese Women’s Super League. Nonetheless, the 56-year-old coach was impressed by how her newbies grabbed the opportunity to don the national team jersey.

“This will just make the pool bigger and put pressure on the players that are currently in the squad,” she said.