Banyana Banyana's Ellis on Women's World Cup: 'Anything is possible'
South Africa face Germany, Spain and China at the showpiece event and will go in as rank outsiders but Desiree Ellis knows their opening fixture against Spain is vital.
CAPE TOWN - Banyana Banyana will look back at their two matches against European champions the Netherlands (2-1 loss) and ninth-ranked Sweden (0-0) and feel that they can do more than just make up the numbers at the World Cup in France.
While the shrewd and pragmatic Desiree Ellis remained coy when asked about Banyana’s specific goals at the World Cup, her answer did reveal an underlying belief and desire that something special could be achieved at Banyana’s maiden World Cup.
“They (players) just think that nothing can stop them and I think that confidence is not overconfidence, it’s just belief more than anything because if you look at the rankings, it's a no-contest.”
South Africa face Germany, Spain and China at the showpiece event and will go in as rank outsiders but Ellis knows their opening fixture against Spain is vital.
“I think one win will get you through to the next round because four out of the six third-placed teams go through to the next round.
“The first game is the most important one and I think that would set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
“And then from there on anything is possible. We've seen teams going to the knockout stages. Who would have thought that Croatia would get to the final? So we have a belief that anything is impossible.”
Ellis points to the recently crowned African Women’s player of the Year Thembi Kgatlana as an example of the confidence within the Banyana squad.
“If you look at Thembi, she doesn't care who is in front of her. She just feels like she can do anything and so do the rest of the players and I think that has rubbed off on the newer players.”
Ellis is not delusional and recognises the necessity to get fitter in order to compete with nations ranked higher than they are.
There is already an improvement in the conditioning department, with the Swedish head coach noticing how far the South Africans have come when compared to last year.
Ellis added some other key areas where Banyana must improve on the field.
“I feel at times we lose the ball too easily. There's no pressure and we want to force it and we spoke about being a little bit more patient in our build up.”
“Our movement upfront and availability of players when we have the ball because sometimes we don't and that needs to improve but tonight was a lot better.”
South Africa has a very good set of fixtures as they prepare for the World Cup. They take part in the Cyprus Cup in late February where they meet Finland, North Korea and the Czech Republic with a friendly against United States also on the cards.