Solid start key to Banyana’s AWC hopes

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Banyana Banyana will try to be like that rain, albeit more successful in dampening things here by topping a Group A that features the hosts Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Egypt. Banyana start their AWC campaign in this city against their neighbours Zimbabwe at 7.30pm South African time, right after Cameroon take on Egypt in a sold-out double header.

"All over you see billboards and people on television talking about this tournament," Ellis said. "They really want to put up a good show. The people in the hotel and all over this city have been fantastic. It would be great to start off the tournament with a win. Off course the bigger picture is winning it. It would be remiss of me, if we didn't come here to win the tournament."

The hosts are also targeting winning the AWC. Images of their women's national team dominate the billboards. There are more pictures of them than even those with the face of one of Cameroon's greatest, Samuel Eto'o. It shows the huge support that they enjoy. Banyana will feel what that supports does to Cameroon's opponents on Tuesday. Before that, they must negotiate their way past Zimbabwe, a side they beat 3-0 in their last friendly before the AWC.

"We aren't even thinking about that game," Ellis said. "We aren't going to get into the same position we were in, in 2014, where we beat Ivory Coast in a friendly just before the AWC and then lost out on a World Cup spot to them in the third place playoff (because we believed that we beat them before and we can easily do it again). We are well prepared. It's imperative that we start with a win. We don't want to be quickly on the back foot. People think that this group will be easy, Zimbabwe beat Cameroon to qualify for the Olympics. That's impressive."

Ellis will be forced to shuffle her team around. USA-based forward Jermaine Seoposenwe is likely to start on the bench after she travelled 24 hours to get here on Friday. Thembi Kgatlana should take her place with Andile Dlamini set to start in goal ahead of the Netherlands-based goalkeeper Roxanne Barker.

"The other players have raised their hands," Ellis said. "I have said it before that if players raise their hands, they will get an opportunity. The likes of Thembi have been looking fantastic. She scored not only her first goal for Banyana but a brace against Zimbabwe. She looks like she is ready for this. We have to give players like that a chance."

Independent Media

*Njabulo Ngidi is in Cameroon courtesy of Sasol.

Original source: Solid start key to Banyana’s AWC hopes

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