Five reasons Banyana Banyana must qualify for 2019 Women's World Cup

Banyana Banyana continue their preparations for the Africa Women Cup of Nations where they need to qualify for the World Cup for these five reasons

Banyana Banyana have been drawn in Group B alongside tournament favourites Nigeria‚ newbies Kenya and Zambia for the 2018 Women's Africa Cup of Nations starting in Ghana next month. The opening clash -against Nigeria- arguably is the key fixture in the pool for them and the Desiree Ellis led side must finish in the top two to advance to the semifinals and then claim at least the third-place spot to book a berth at the at the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup in France.

So what are the FIVE reasons why Banyana must qualify for 2019 World Cup in France

  1. #1 Preparation

    Preparation is multifactorial in nature and encompasses many aspects leading up to the tournament. Banyana have arguably been one of the most active sides among those who will be vying for a World Cup spot in Ghana next month. Favourites Nigeria, have only featured six times since winning the 2016 Afcon in Cameroon compared to Banyana's 24 outings. Furthermore, to counter the special challenge of tournament football, Banyana have featured twice in the Cosafa Cup, the Cyprus Cup and also played a couple of international friendlies against the more fancied counterparts - France, Sweden and most recently Chile.
  2. #2 Experience

    Experience or inexperience do not necessarily determine a team's ability to cope with the demands of a competition, but having your tried and tested soldiers at any major tournament is a plus for any side. Nompumelelo Nyandeni played at the sixth edition of the African Women's Championship held in South Africa 2004. Likewise in 2006 and 2008 where she was named in the team of the tournament alongside Noko Matlou & Veronica Phewa. She missed the 2010 and 2012 editions owing to her then club FC Rossiyanka not releasing her for the competition as it falls outside the FIFA calendar. Having returned from Russia to join JVW FC, she was back for the 2014 and 2016 editions, and if selected for the final squad, she would be making her sixth appearance at the African Women's Football Championship finals alongside Matlou, Leandra Smeda and captain Janine Van Wyk will be hoping to make their fifth appearance at AWFC too if selected. The rest of the regulars in the squad have also been to the continental spectacle on several occasions with the exception of Bambanani Mbane and Linda Motlhalo, who both cut their teeth at the 2016 edition. 
  3. #3 Foreign Contingent

    Banyana will also head to the tournament with an increased number of players campaigning abroad. Van Wyk, Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana have all returned from an impressive season with Houston Dash at the Women's Professional League in the United States while Smeda recently became the first South African female player to play in the Uefa Women's Champions League after signing for Gintra Universitetas in Lithuania. Refiloe Jane and striker Rhoda Mulaudzi, missing from the current squad, have recently signed for Australian side Canberra United. Becoming the first South African's players to play in Australia

    Add to Roxanne Barker's experience in America, Iceland and Holland and Nyandeni's experience in Russia.

  4. #4 Sasol

    Sasol, who have been Banyana's prime sponsor since 2009, renewed their deal with South African Football Association last year, and will remain the headline sponsor of Banyana Banyana and women's football in the country until 2021. With this renewal, Sasol have reiterated their support for women's football in the country which has given no less than 3 600 female footballers a chance to play regular competitive football through the Sasol League and also widen the selection pool of players available for Banyana while offering bursaries at tertiary institutions for Banyana and Sasol League players.

    There would be no better reward for Sasol than to qualify for the World Cup finals in France next year.

  5. Backpagepix

    #5 Desiree Ellis

    Ellis featured for Banyana for the first time in a World Cup Qualifier during the 1995 African Women's Championship. Banyana lost to Nigeria in the final round of the qualification, losing the two-legged tie 4-1 and 1-7 to miss out on what was the second edition of the Fifa Women's World Cup, held in Sweden, also in 1995. 

    The Banyana mentor was once again up against the Super Falcons in her final Africa Women Cup of Nations although this edition was no Wolrd Cup Qualifier appearance at the 2000 African Women's Championship final played in Voorslorus on 25 November 2000. And once again, the West African side, for the fourth time were crowned African champions at the expense of Banyana.  

    23 years later, the Cape Town-born born mentor returns to face an old foe for the first time as permanent head coach of Banyana. Although Ellis did lead Banyana to a fourth place at the 2016 Women Afcon in Cameroon, she was only picking up the pieces after Vera Pauw's resignation post a disappointing Olympic Campaign in Rio de Janeiro. Furthermore, the 2016 edition was not doubling up as a World Cup Qualifier. 

    Since her appointment, Ellis historically became the first South African – male or female – to win the Cosafa Cup Championship both as a player (2002) and a coach (2017). More interestingly, she successfully defended the Cosafa Cup title when Banyana defeated Cameroon 2-1 a few weeks ago. Ellis has also impressively amassed a 54.2 win percentage having claimed 13 victories from the 24 matches she's overseen to date.

    These, of course, did not come without any challenges, from player payment woes, injuries and last minute player withdrawals due to club and academic commitments.