Huge moment as Ellis asks Banyana to put aside nerves in World Cup opener against Spain

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Desiree Ellis has urged her Banyana Banyana side to stay focused and stick to the gameplan ahead of Saturday’s Fifa Women’s World Cup opener against Spain‚ where a positive result will bring hope that they can make it out of a difficult group.

Ellis says they have been meticulous in their planning for the tournament‚ and for their first opponents in Banyana’s in their kickoff at Stade Océane‚ Le Havre. She said now it is up to the players to execute in the way they have trained‚ and not allow the nerves to get the better of them.

“We want to make sure through all of our training that players understand what it is they have to do on the field because it is now all about them‚” Ellis said.

“We have a plan‚ obviously‚ and during training we are trying to make them understand that.

“Hopefully we can use our strengths. But in that same way that we are analysing Spain‚ they are obviously analysing us.

“At our previous game [a 7-2 loss to Norway] they [Spain] had a whole entourage of people – I think there were about 10 of them.

“We have come here to make our mark‚ we know we are in a difficult group‚ but this team knows what it is capable of and they need to play to their true potential and show their quality.

“If each and every one understand their roles we will get off to a good start.”

Ellis was captain of Banyana when they played their first international in 1993‚ and now leads the SA Women’s team on their first appearance to the game’s greatest stage time as a coach.

It is a massive moment in the country’s football history and comes after much heartbreak in qualifying in the past.

Ellis said the players must do their best for the team‚ but also recognise what a big moment it is for them personally.

“I am excited for the players‚ it was a long‚ hard task qualifying for the World Cup‚ but it is their time to shine now. It is all about the players‚ it is their big stage‚ the whole world will be watching.

“It is up to them to put up their hands and put their best foot forward because this could open up huge opportunities for them.

“Once they step onto that field‚ it is about fighting for the country‚ badge and everyone who didn’t have the opportunity‚ and they know that.”

Spain won all eight of their World Cup qualifiers and are a side on the rise‚ who many have tipped as dark horses for the title.

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