JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Experienced midfielder Nompumelelo Nyandeni was a surprise omission as South African coach Desiree Ellis named a 23-player squad headlined by African Women’s Footballer of the Year Thembi Kgatlana for the women’s World Cup in France next month.
Nyandeni failed to make the cut even though the 31-year-old is one of the most experienced members of the team having won 149 international caps.
The pacey Kgatlana is the chief attacking threat for the side and plays in China with Beijing BG Phoenix, along with national team mate, midfielder Linda Motlhalo.
Both were at Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League last year.
As was veteran Janine van Wyk, who will captain the team from the heart of the defence. Also included are Sweden-based midfielder Leandra Smeda and Democratic Republic of Congo-born Ode Fulutudilu, who plays for Malaga in Spain.
“We have a group that has international experience from the (last two) Olympic Games and the African Women’s Championships, and also previous Under-17 women’s World Cups,” Ellis said.
“We have a squad with well over 1,000 caps between them.”
Also included is Noko Matlou, 33, who was a striker when she was named African Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2008, but now plays as a central defender in what is likely to be her swansong tournament.
South Africa face Spain in their tournament opener in Le Havre on June 8, before taking on China and Germany in Group B.
Goalkeepers: Andile Dlamini, Kaylin Swart, Mapaseka Mpuru
Defenders: Lebogang Ramalepe, Nothando Vilakazi, Noko Matlou, Janine van Wyk (captain), Bambanani Mbane, Bongeka Gamede, Tiisetso Makhubela
Midfielders: Refiloe Jane, Mamello Makhabane, Karabo Dlamini, Leandra Smeda, Kholosa Biyana, Busisiwe Ndimeni, Sibulele Holweni, Linda Motlhalo
Strikers: Rhoda Mulaudzi, Amanda Mthandi, Thembi Kgatlana, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Ode Fulutudilu
(Reporting By Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar)