JOHANNESBURG - An old enemy that has tormented every South African national team stands between the women’s Under-20 team and a place in the Under-20 World Cup in France next year.
But Basetsana coach Maude Khumalo is confident the stranglehold Nigeria has over South African teams will not hold them back in their quest to become only the country’s second women’s side to take part in the World Cup, after the Under-17 generation of 2010 competed in the global showpiece in Trinidad and Tobago.
Basetsana will go into the final round confident after they made light work of Burundi at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday, thumping them 5-0 to reverse the 2-0 loss they suffered in Bujumbura earlier this month. Before that they had humbled Namibia 9-0 on aggregate. The “mighty” Nigeria now lie in wait in the last round of the qualifiers. The winner over two legs in January will book a place in the World Cup that will run from August 5-24 in France.
“What I will tell you is that when you go out of the country, you don’t know what to expect,” Khumalo said. “But we have been to Nigeria with some of the girls who are here. Our thinking is that if we want to be the best, we have to beat the best.
"This thing of Nigeria this and Nigeria that needs to go away. We need to have a proper game plan. I think that we will make it and we will go to France.There are a lot of factors that contribute to us fearing Nigeria, especially when it comes to the junior national teams.
“There are always rumours that Nigeria uses over-age players. So what we have told the girls is that regardless of what we face against Nigeria, we must showcase our talent, fight as a unit and be prepared to die on the field for the country. That’s the mentality that we need to have.”
Basetsana struggled against Burundi in their own backyard not because they were tactically inferior but because they suffered from stage fright.
“The difference against Burundi is that we made a lot of changes and we made sure we analysed the weaknesses of the opponents,” Khumalo said. “We realised that they are too slow and they aren’t that good technically.
"We told ourselves that we must wrap up the match in the first half so that we could kill their confidence. Their game plan was just to hoof the ball forward. We had a response for that.”