The South African Under-17 women’s team ahead of their departure for Morocco. Photo: Safa

RABAT – The South African Under-17 women’s team (Bantwana), have arrived in Rabat, Morocco, to face the host nation in the second leg of their second and final round of the 2018 FIFA Under-17 World Cup qualifiers.

The clash takes place on Saturday at Stade Boubker Aamar in Sale, Morocco. The South Africans lead 5-1 from the first leg played at the Dobsonville Stadium on Sunday, February 4.

“From the minute we left our base to get to our hotel in Rabat, we calculated 25 hours of travel, and we are not complaining – it’s part of the game, we set ourselves to that. 

“We understand what is ahead of us and what we need to do to achieve our goal – and that goal is for us to be ready for Saturday,” said coach Simphiwe Dludlu upon the squad’s arrival.

It has been a long journey in the qualifiers for the Dludlu’s team, which started with Botswana in December, and with just 90 minutes remaining in qualification.

“Yes indeed, reality is setting in. This is a moment to be proud of for the team, that we are so near to reaching our goal. This is the only 90 minutes that matter before the World Cup, but we are not looking beyond that as yet. 

“At the moment, we are level with Morocco because this is a new game altogether, new venue, new match officials, new feeling, new weather – in fact new everything. For us it is important to focus on what we can control. We have to keep in mind that Morocco is also a team that still wants to qualify.”

The only concern for Dludlu is the midfielder Sphumelele Shamase, who was substituted in the first leg against Morocco. She has been training on her own since the start of camp to get her ready for the second leg.

“She is recovering well because the strength and conditioning coach has been working with her separately so that she doesn’t miss out in terms of fitness levels. 

The Bantwana coach further dispelled the notion that South Africa is home and dry, thanks to the 5-1 lead from the first leg.

“Someone might say you have it easy, you have it in the bag, even if you field your second string team, but that is not the case. When you are on the verge of succeeding the pressure mounts, which means the focus has to be better. 

“You need to be precise in your planning and you need to work even harder because when you have nothing to lose you just do things, but when there is a lot at stake and a lot to lose, it makes it so much more difficult,” said Dludlu.

“I am expecting Morocco to come up with a new and more motivated team, I am expecting them to bring the fight to us because they are playing at home and they have shown that left unchecked, they can hurt you. They are a team that doesn’t give up,” added Dludlu.

Bantwana is one of three African nations battling for a spot at the Women’s World Cup, scheduled for November 13 to December 1 in Uruguay.

In other fixtures, Ghana, who won 9-0 in the first leg, host Djibouti on Sunday while Cameroon will welcome Nigeria in Yaounde on Saturday. The first leg clash ended in a 2-2 stalemate in Benin City, Nigeria.

Winners of second round will represent Africa at the World Cup tournament. 

African News Agency (ANA)


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