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Banyana open Cyprus Cup campaign against Slovakia

The Banyana Banyana women’s football side open their 2018 Cyprus Women’s Cup account with a clash against Slovakia on Wednesday.

The two nations meet at the Tasos Markou Stadium in Paralimni, Cyprus at 1pm. The South Africans arrived in the country on Sunday and have been hard at work preparing for the tournament.

‘I’ve been really impressed by the attitude of the players, they’ve really come to the party and worked very hard,’ said new Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis. ‘We want to start off on a good note because the first game of the tournament is very important – we’re not just looking for a win but also for a fine performance as it sets the tone for the rest of the tournament and brings confidence to the team.

There are 21 players in the national team camp, and although Ellis is eager to give them all a run in the tournament she says this will be dependent on how things pan out during the matches.

‘In an ideal situation, it is important to give all the players some game time so they can gain some experience, especially away from home and against higher-ranked opposition but then again the game itself will dictate how and when we make changes. You have to be very calculating and make sure the changes are to the benefit of the team, not just for the sake of changing.

‘You don’t want to bring in a new player when things are not going well as that is a huge burden to carry for them, because you want them to gradually gel with the team,’ added Ellis.

Since their arrival in Cyprus, the former Banyana Banyana captain and her technical team have been studying the opposition, and know what to expect.

‘We are very fortunate to have seen a game of Slovakia when they took on Russia recently – they are very organised and energetic. We have also seen places where we can take advantage of but we have to be on top of our game as we know at this level the smallest mistake can be punished,’ said Ellis.

She believes that the importance of the tournament cannot be underestimated. ‘Because of the format of the tournament, we know we cannot win it, but it is important to finish as high as possible in this 12-nation event. The highest we can get to is third, which will be good for our ranking, for the momentum of the team and also for the confidence of the players. It is again another opportunity for the players to showcase their talent as they could be snapped up by overseas clubs,’ said Ellis.

Trinidad and Tobago have withdrawn from the competition, which runs to 7 March, and have now been replaced by South Korea, who are ranked 11th in the world. The other country in Group C is Hungary.

This is the 11th edition of the competition an annual event that involves 12 women’s national teams from around the world. The matches are played in the cities of Nicosia, Paralimni and Larnaca.

South Africa will be making their sixth appearance while Slovakia, Hungary and Korea DPR, will be making their first, third and second appearances respectively.

In 2009 Banyana Banyana finished in sixth position, 2010 (eighth), 2012 (10th), 2013 (11th) and 2015 (10th). South Africa’s next fixture is against Hungary on Friday (6pm).

In the last group stage clash, South Africa will lock horns with South Korea on Monday (1pm). Finland, Switzerland, Italy and Wales have been drawn in Group A, while Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic and Spain are in Group B.

The competition has been held since 2008, and Switzerland are the current champions.

The Cyprus Women’s Cup uses the following two-phase format:
– The first phase is a group stage in which the twelve invited teams are divided into three groups of four teams
– Similar to the Algarve Cup, the teams in Group A and Group B consist of higher-ranked teams and are the only teams actually in contention for the championship
– Group C consists of lower-ranked teams
– Each group plays a round robin of six games, with each team playing one match against each of the other teams in the same group.

The second phase is a single ‘finals day’ in which six games involving all twelve teams are played to determine the tournament’s final standings.
The match-ups are as follows:
– 1st place match: Winners of Groups A and B.
– 3rd place match: Winner of Group C and best runner-up from Groups A and B.
– 5th place match: Runners-up in Group C and second-best runners-up from Groups A and B.
– 7th place match: Third-place teams in Groups A and B.
– 9th place match: Third-place team in Group C and best fourth-place team from Groups A and B.
– 11th place match: Fourth-place team in Group C and second-best fourth-place team from Groups A and B.
NB: Depending on the position in our group, the bold in red are the positions we are able to play for.

Picture of Banyana in training in Cyprus courtesy of Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix