Banyana intensify World Cup preparations on French soil

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With just eleven days to go before the World Cup, Banyana Banyana held their first two training sessions on French soil this past weekend with all 26 players present after the four overseas-based players of Leandra Smeda (Sweden), Ode Fulutudilu (Spain) as well as Nothando Vilakazi and Jermaine Seoposenwe (both Lithuania) travelled from their clubs and met up with the rest of their team at their pre-World Cup base camp in Rouen.

Following an overnight travel, the players had a pool session to get them ready for the hectic schedule ahead. Coach Desiree Ellis says it is all systems go.

Whilst busy putting in the work in France, Banyana were named Team of the Year at African Union Sports Council Region held in Windhoek this past weekend.

Banyana beat off stiff competition from the Botswana Men Relay team and the Malawi Netball side to clinch their third Team of the Year award in two years after they were crowned CAF Team of the Year in 2017 and followed by the National Team of the Year in 2018 at the South African Sports Awards.

The past year has seen a number of Banyana players earning international moves abroad, which has further upped the competition amongst the ladies.

Ellis concedes it will be hard to come up with a first 11 given how competitive the girls are.

Banyana will conclude their World Cup preparations with an international friendly against Norway this Sunday at Stade Moulonguet in Amiens.

Making their 8th appearance, the Norwegians have been ever-present at the World Cup since their debut in 1991. Ellis expects a highly physical encounter.

In upping their tempo ahead of the Norway encounter, Ellis let the players handle Sunday’s training session where they worked on their set-pieces.

The match against Norway will be Banyana’s ninth fixture this year alone having started with two friendlies against Sweden and the Netherlands in Cape Town back in January.

They then took part in the Cyprus Women’s Cup where they faced Finland twice, Korea DPR and Czech Republic.

Soon after that, they hosted fellow Women’s World Cup debutants Jamaica in Durban before heading to America where they lost 3-0 to the world champions and number one ranked nation in women’s football. Banyana are winless in all those, having lost five times and drawn thrice.

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 PR in Paris on the 13th of June and four days later against Germany in Montpellier on the 17th. – Repot by Tumi Gabonamong