South Africa Football Association has released Banyana Banyana's preparation schedule for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, with seven top friendlies lined up for the team.
Banyana Banyana are making a first-ever appearance at the quadrennial championship after finishing as runners-up at the 2018 Africa Women's Cup of Nations in Ghana early December 2018.
Coach Desiree Ellis' women will start with a closed-door tie against Sweden on January 17 and the Netherlands two days later at the Cape Coast Stadium, before a rematch with the Blagult on January 22 at the same venue.
After playing three games in South Africa, the team will make a trip to Europe to feature in the 2019 Cyprus Women's Cup - a 12-team tournament scheduled to hold from February 25 to March 7, which includes co-World Cup campaigners Nigeria, Italy, and Thailand.
At the bi-invitational tournament in Cyprus, Banyana will be hoping to surpass their sixth-place finish on their seventh appearance in the annual competition, but they must first negotiate past Czech Republic, Finland and Korea DPR in Group A.
“Everyone says we are in a tough group at the World Cup, which is true, but then again, no one said it can’t be done. The players, as well as the technical team, will gain invaluable experience with the matches lined-up for our preparation," said coach Ellis.
"I can only thank SAFA and our proud sponsor Sasol for all the support they have given this team. What more can we ask for? I am just in awe of the programme we have in front of us. What we are looking at are confirmed seven world-class preparation matches against top-class opposition – and this is exactly in line with how things will be like at the World Cup.
"And also, depending on how we fare at the Cyprus Cup, we may just add another match. Three of the sides are in the top ten in terms of world rankings (USA – 1, Netherlands – 7, Sweden – 9), then you have Korea DPR, which will give us a taste of what to expect in France when we face China PR," she continued.
"While the others will give an indication of what Spain and Germany have to offer at the World Cup. This is just what the doctor ordered – good preparation, which needs to be followed by perfect execution at the tournament. I am looking forward to the new year with great anticipation and full of hope,” Ellis concluded.
Having been drawn against China, Spain and Germany in Group B, South Africa will be hoping to make a debut statement in its opener against Spain on June 8 in Le Havre at the showpiece.