Banyana Banyana will get another chance to test themselves against Fifa Women’s World Cup opposition when they host Jamaica at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Sunday.
Coach Desiree Ellis’ side impressed in friendlies against powerhouse nations Netherlands and Sweden earlier in the year‚ but then disappointed at the Cyprus Cup in March‚ so this fixture gives the team a chance for a morale-boosting win.
Jamaica are ranked four places below Banyana on the global list at number 53‚ but will also be in France for the World Cup‚ where they have been pooled with Brazil‚ Italy and Australia.
The Reggae Girlz have brought a squad of 20 players to Durban‚ many of them considered fringe selections for the World Cup who will be eager to stake their claim.
“We set standards throughout the group that every time we step on the field‚ it’s not about hunger‚ but making the next person better‚” Jamaica coach Hue Menzies said.
“Some people may be putting in the extra‚ but this group has always put in the extra whenever they step onto the field.
“Right now‚ we are looking for who is sharper and who is making quicker decisions with the ball and who is looking to combine and who will make the decisions that could change the game.”
Hue has been pleased with the work done by the team in South Africa‚ and says he expects to use as many players as possible in the game.
“We still need to be a little cleaner and sharper. We have one more session tomorrow [Friday] then a walkthrough‚ so by then we would have a better idea where we need to put people.
“It’s not just about the XI‚ but the entire number of substitutions that we have.”
Most of the squad are based in the lower leagues in the United States‚ though they do have players in Europe such as Dominique Bond-Flasza (PSV Eindhoven‚ Netherlands)‚ Allyson Swaby (Roma‚ Italy) and Chinyelu Asher (Stabæk‚ Norway).
Jamaica recently won back-to-back home matches against Chile‚ who Banyana played away in October‚ drawing one and losing the other of their two matches.
Ellis’s side are now on a seven-game winless run‚ something she would like to change ahead of the World Cup with their only other scheduled fixture away at world champions United States on May 12.
Back in the SA squad is DR Congo-born striker Ode Fulutudilu‚ who missed last year’s African Women’s Championship through club commitments in Finland‚ but has since moved to Spanish side Malaga and adds experience to the forward line.
It is otherwise a near full-strength selection for Ellis‚ with all of her overseas-based players in camp.
“This is also a different type of game and an important one at that‚ as each and every match prepares you for the next one‚” she said.
“The players are excited as it is 67 days away from the World Cup and it is getting closer and closer.
“Even though we have not been together‚ players have been training as we have given them programmes‚ and some have been playing matches and also tournaments.
“We will prepare well for the Sunday match as it is a farewell match‚ and we will put up a good showing.”
Banyana have a tough pool at the World Cup having been drawn with Germany (ranked second in the world)‚ Spain (13th) and China (16th).
Source: Nick Said