World Cup time for Banyana Banyana to shine - Ellis

South Africa Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis says her players are "a special group and you have the confidence in them" for the FIFA Women's World Cup. ANESH DEBIKY/AFP/Getty Images

When South Africa played their first women's international after readmission to global football in 1993, they were captained by diminutive midfielder Desiree Ellis, who carried the country into a fresh era for female footballers.

Now, 26 years on, Ellis is coach of Banyana Banyana and tasked with leading the team into a brave new dawn as they debut at the FIFA Women's World Cup in France.

Ellis has succeeded where many before her failed, coaching South Africa on the game's greatest stage after decades of qualification heartbreak.

They face an uphill battle to advance to the next stage, having been drawn alongside Germany, Spain and China in Group B at the finals, but Ellis warns that no-one should underestimate their fight.

"This group is always competitive, whether we play [board game] 30 Seconds, five-a-side, have a recovery session or even football tennis," Ellis said about her players.

"They know what is at stake.

"This is a special group and you have the confidence in them. You have to have confidence in each other, which builds trust and in turn builds teamwork."

Ellis has huge belief in her squad, a point proven as she watches from the sidelines as the players develop their own attacking set-piece routines at training.

"The players have sat down as a group and decided what they are going to do, so I am just monitoring the session and letting them lead," she said.

"We will let them find what works and then see as a technical team how we can tweak it."

That is not to suggest Ellis is a laid-back coach. She works tirelessly on planning and preparation, but believes giving players the freedom to devise their own plans adds to their World Cup experience and gives them a greater sense of responsibility.

"For me, it is all about the players, it is their show and their time to shine," she said.

"They know what is at stake for themselves. You have players who would like to get contracts abroad. It is their opportunity.

"We want to make sure the players enjoy the experience and absorb everything. It is about playing at the World Cup, but also enjoying the experience. That is key."

Ellis said that she has had to tone down training in the past few days as the players clamour for their own piece of history in South Africa's opener against Spain on June 8.

"The one thing in the players' minds now is [not] getting an injury, but that is normal.

"We had to tell a couple of players to ease down, because right now it is all about trying to get into the first starting line-up."

Ellis says nerves are yet to kick in, but she adds South Africa are desperate to show, after two-and-a-half decades of trying, that they warrant their World Cup place.

"We are new at the World Cup and we are going out there to show why we deserve to be here."

South Africa will play Norway in a final warm-up fixture on Sunday