Desiree Ellis has made a plea to her players to seize the opportunity when they face France in an international friendly match tonight (Sunday, 22 January 2017) in Saint-Denis, Reunion Islands.
The clash takes place at Stade de L’est Jean Ivoula and will kickoff at 19h00 South African time.
Ellis, the interim head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana squad, says she would love to see more players plying their trade abroad as the move will help the national team to improve even more.
“The players know what is at stake here – not just the result, not just the performance but an opportunity for them to raise their hands. We all know what happened to Janine playing so well against the USA and finally landing a contract, and France has a fantastic league so hopefully there are opportunities for others as well because the more players we have playing in the best leagues the better it is for the national team,” said Ellis.
“At the women’s championship in Cameroon, the host nation and Nigeria had the majority of their starting eleven playing abroad and that is the experience they can bring back to the national team. I have said to the girls the performance of an individual and team is important, the result is key but it is also an opportunity for them. If we play well as a team the players will stand out and that’s what it is all about because you will never know where your next opportunity comes from, you never know who comes knocking on your door, hopefully they can raise their hands and doors will open for them.”
France is ranked third in the world, and second in UEFA compared to South Africa’s 51st and fifth ranking respectively, but Ellis is not fazed.
“We have been having good sessions, everybody is raring to go. We know they are ranked number three in the world, we will respect them but not fear because we have shown our qualities before when we faced the likes of the USA, Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden and China and we will try to do the same again in this match against France. We are going into this game looking for a win, and that is not arrogance because anybody that walks onto the field wants a win. We will also look for an improved performance, not only as a team but also as individuals because that will lead us to a good result at the end of the day,” added Ellis, a former Banyana Banyana captain.
“We have been working on a lot of things – being quicker, doing everything at a higher speed because that is what football at this level is all about. Hopefully we can create a lot chances, but this time convert them. And we are aware that it is going to be difficult because the higher the pressure, the more mistakes we will make and the more we will retreat into our shells. But we have trained at a higher pace and we hope it will come through at the game.”
Meanwhile Leandra Smeda has recovered from her ankle injury and has been given the all clear to play by the medical team. She sustained the injury at Banyana Banyana’s final training session on home soil before they departed for Reunion Islands.
Smeda missed the first session when the team arrived here, but has since taken part in the remaining two, which she completed without discomfort.
The South Africans will be hoping to turn the tables on France who won the first encounter between the two nations 3-2 in 2009.
This will be the first match of the year for both countries.
Ellis’ charges last played in November at the 2016 CAF African Women’s Cup of Nation in Cameroon, where they finished fourth.
In their last six matches, France has won three – against New Zealand, Albania and Spain. They lost to the USA and Canada and drew against Brazil.