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Banyana targeting best ever Cyprus Cup finish

Belgium are Banyana Banyana’s final opponents at this year’s Cyprus Women’s Cup on Wednesday.

The Sasol-sponsored national women’s side contest the fifth/sixth place play-off in a match starting at 3pm SA time in Lamaka.

South Africa finished second in Group C, while Belgium ended as the second best runner up of Groups A and B.

Should Banyana Banyana defeat the Europeans, who are ranked 22nd in the world, they will finish in fifth position, which will be their highest ever in the tournament since the first appearance in the tournament in 2009.

‘I’m looking forward to a different challenge because each and every game so far has had its own challenges,’ said head coach Desiree Ellis. ‘It’s going to be very interesting because we’re playing a team from Group B but I think we’re all up for it, especially the players. I believe they will give their all because it’s 90 minutes where they get their best finish in the tournament but it’s also another match to see how much improvement we have made.

‘Hopefully we can put up another great performance and go home with our heads held even higher,’ said Ellis.

Banyana Banyana put on a gutsy performance to hold the 11th-ranked South Korea in the final group stages match on Monday. South Korea, who topped Group C with seven points, will tackle Switzerland for third place, while Italy and Spain will contest the final.

‘We’ve been working on our defensive structure and I think each and every game that we have played so far, prepared us for the next one. Everything is a process, we have improved with every match and players have grown a lot. We have made several changes for every fixture and every player who has been called upon has done the business, we don’t say we have a team but we have a squad – and that is the beauty of the group that we have here.

The players can hold their heads high for a magnificent performance,’ said Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis.

Ellis has used all three goalkeepers in the three matches, and every player in the team has had a chance to play, save for one – defender Zanele Nhlapho.

‘We have to sit down with the medical and technical team to see what changes we can make this time because the players have had a punishing schedule of three matches in six days. We want to win the last match but the health of players is more important. We also have to study the opposition to see what personnel is needed, and based on that, there is always a possibility of a few changes’ added Ellis

In other matches, Wales will face Austria for the seventh/eighth place play off, with Slovakia and the Czech Republic contesting the ninth/10th place while Hungary and Finland will lock horns for a 11th place finish.

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