Banyana and Sweden see Tuesday’s friendly as vital prep for 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Banyana Banyana will face Netherlands for the Winnie Mandela International Challenge and Sweden for the Albertina Sisulu Centenary.
Banyana Banyana will face Netherlands for the Winnie Mandela International Challenge and Sweden for the Albertina Sisulu Centenary.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Both South Africa and Sweden see Tuesday’s friendly international at the Cape Town Stadium as vital preparation for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The match will be played in honour of former struggle icon Albertina Sisulu‚ and will come days after Banyana Banyana meet the Netherlands at the same venue on Saturday‚ a fixture to be played as the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Challenge.

They are vital clashes‚ not only in honouring two women who made a massive contribution to South Africa’s liberation from Apartheid‚ but with the wider goal of fine-tuning preparations for the World Cup in France from June 7-July 7.

Sweden return to Cape Town for a second year having enjoyed their warm-weather training 12 months ago that culminated in a 3-0 victory for the European side in a game that was perhaps closer than the scoreline suggests.

“We are honoured to play the game on Tuesday‚” Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said.

“I have learned a little bit of history and it is clear that Albertina Sisulu was a very important person.

“It’s nice to be back‚ we had a very good time here last year. It is not only because of the weather though‚ we had fantastic training sessions and for us this is very important preparation.

“Congratulations to coach Desiree Ellis‚ her staff‚ her team and the people of South Africa‚ for going to the World Cup. Sweden has been at the World Cup many times and soccer for females is growing around the world.”

Ellis admits that the match against Sweden last year was the start of a journey to World Cup qualifying at the African Women’s Championship late last year.

Now starts a new cycle of preparation that includes these two games and the Cyprus Cup in March‚ where they will face the Czech Republic‚ Colombia and Finland.

“Preparation is key‚” Ellis said.

“Our physical condition has to be top notch‚ but the fantastic friendlies we had last year were very important.

“We play Sweden again‚ and they are also going to the World Cup‚ so it is great preparation for us. We are also going to go out there to do our best to make the names of Mandela and Sisulu proud.

“It’s a big year for us. Nobody gave us a chance when going to Afcon. I know the World Cup is a few steps up‚ but we are grateful for the opportunity.”

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