With the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicking off in less than a month, the competing nations are finalising their squads and South Africa is no different.

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis announced her final 23 women squad on Friday that will represent South Africa at the global showpiece in France from the 7th of June to 7th of July.

Pitted in Group B, Banyana will open their World Cup account with a clash against Spain in Le Havre on the 8th of June followed by a fixture against China in Paris on the 13th of June and four days later against Germany in Montpellier on the 17th.

Ellis has kept the bulk of the team that was instrumental in qualifying for the tournament in Ghana last year but blooded a number of youngsters in the mix, which subsequently saw veteran midfielder Nompumelelo Nyandeni left out of the squad.

Nyandeni, who has earned 125 caps and played in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics lost out in midfield where the likes of teenagers Karabo Dhlamini and Sibulele Holweni who played in the Under-17 World Cup last year made the cut instead alongside the experienced Refiloe Jane and Leandra Smeda.

Ellis used the game against America to give uncapped Under 17 captain  Holweni and her junior national teammate Dhlamini a taste of the senior team.

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The spine of the team consist of players with over 100 caps in captain Janine van Wyk (166), Noko Matlou (152), Nothando Vilakazi (129) and vice-captain Refiloe Jane (104).

Ellis, who named two uncapped players in defender Bongeka Gamede who plays for the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town as well as goalkeeper Mapaseka Mpuru who is on the books of the University of Pretoria, says the youngsters raised their hands higher.

Banyana assemble for camp next Wednesday in Johannesburg before flying out to France the next day where Ellis will have one last chance to fine-tune the squad with an international friendly against Norway in Amiens on the 2nd of June.

Ellis points out they now have their work cut out in rectifying the same mistakes of been too soft at the back and jittery in front.

While a spirited second-place finish at the African Women’s Cup of Nations back in December did herald a new era for women’s football in the country, it also marked a losing spell for Banyana who last won a game six months ago when they defeated Mali in the semi-finals before losing to Nigeria in the final on penalties.

Banyana went on to lose five games (two friendlies against Netherlands and the USA as well as three games in the Cyprus Cup) and drew thrice against Finland, Sweden and Jamaica. Ellis says she is not pressing any panic buttons.

Full Banyana Banyana squad:

Goalkeepers:Andile Dlamini (Sundowns), Kaylin Swart (Golden Stars), Mapaseka Mpuru (University of Pretoria)

Defenders:Lebogang Ramalepe (Polokwane), Nothando Vilakazi (Lithuania), Noko Matlou (Polokwane), Janine van Wyk (Joburg), Bambanani Mbane (Bloemfontein), Bongeka Gamede (CT), Tiisetso Makhubela (Joburg)

Midfielders:Refiloe Jane, Mamello Makhabane, Karabo Dlamini (Joburg), Leandra Smeda (Sweden), Kholosa Biyana (Durban), Busisiwe Ndimeni (Pretoria), Sibulele Holweni (PE), Linda Motlhalo (China)

Strikers:Rhoda Mulaudzi, Amanda Mthandi (Joburg), Thembi Kgatlana (China), Jermaine Seoposenwe (Lithuania), Ode Fulutudilu (Spain). – Report by Tumi Gabonamong

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