Smeda treasures Lithuania exposure

Banyana Banyana attacking midfielder Leandra Smeda, right, challenges Chile's Araya Karen during their International friendly match at Estadio Sausalito in Chile. / Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix
Banyana Banyana attacking midfielder Leandra Smeda, right, challenges Chile's Araya Karen during their International friendly match at Estadio Sausalito in Chile. / Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Having made history by becoming the first SA player to score in the Uefa Women's Champions League in August, Banyana Banyana attacking-midfielder Leandra Smeda aims to utilise the experience she gained in Europe to help the national team.

Smeda, 29, had joined Lithuanian club Gintra Universitetas on a four-month deal from University of the Western Cape (UCT) in July.

The Banyana attacker registered five appearances for her European club but netted only that historic Champions League goal against Finnish side Espoo FC Honka.

"My stay in Lithuania was short but it was worth it. Playing and scoring in the Champions League was exciting and a good experience for me. Hopefully, I can bring all the knowledge I gained there to the national team," said Smeda.

"When I got there, they converted me to be a defensive midfielder [from being an attacker]. That was a benefit for me, I can now say I am a versatile player. They need me to come back but I will only make my decision next year."

For the past two weeks, Smeda has been in camp with Banyana as they gear up for the Africa Women's Cup of Nations, which will be hosted by Ghana from November 17 to December 1.

Coach Desiree Ellis is expected to confirm her final squad of 21 players today.

"I am optimistic I will make the final squad. We are ready for this tournament. We know it won't be easy but our ultimate goal is to qualify for the World Cup [in France next year]."

Ellis's charges are in Group B alongside Zambia, Kenya and favourites and defending champions Nigeria. They start their campaign against the Super Falcons. The top three in Ghana - the two finalists and the bronze winners - will qualify for the World Cup.

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