Simphiwe Dludlu, Bantwana national U17 women’s football coach, admits to being nervous as her charges attempt to qualify for this year’s FIFA U17 World Cup in Uruguay.
Bantwana play the second leg of their qualifying match against Morocco in Sale on Sunday. They go into that tie on the back of a 5-1 lead after the first leg at Dobsonville, Soweto at the weekend.
Kick-off is 4.30pm (SA time) and the winner of the two-leg tie will qualify for the tournament in Uruguay.
With just one match remaining in the qualifiers, Dludlu is not taking any chances.
‘I’m still nervous but it’s good nerves – the kind that say “it’s not over yet”, the kind that remind us that this is a game of football and it can still be lost there. These are the kind of nerves that remind us to go back to the drawing board to strengthen what we did right, and improve on what was lacking,’ said Dludlu.
‘I’m not going to be complacent, and the girls will certainly not be complacent – because the opposition can also come up with a good plan to counter ours. We just have to forget about the last match, it’s behind us. We’re going to play a new game altogether – yes we put ourselves at an advantage but the results that matter are of the upcoming fixture, nothing else.
Bantwana have been on a goal-scoring spree since the start of the qualifiers. They put 11 past Botswana in the previous round – five in the first leg and six in the return fixture. They followed it up with another five against Morocco in the first leg – something that gives Dludlu confidence.
‘Scoring so many goals says we’re doing something right. I’m comfortable with the lead that we enjoy going into the second leg. The goal they scored made us aware of what they are capable of especially as we will be playing in their backyard. We need to come up with a plan to defuse all of that.
‘I don’t mean we have to defend the entire match as we might end up scoring own goals, but at the same time we should not be too open and give them a sniff at goal,’ added the former Banyana captain.
She adds that they had to improve on their defence after conceding six against Botswana. ‘We made it very difficult for Morocco to score by improving on our defensive responsibilities. Our mission was to defend first, and we knew that if we got that one right then we were well on our way to scoring goals without worrying about conceding. On the other hand, you can defend as much as you can, but if you don’t score goals then you won’t games,’ said Dludlu.
In Morocco, Bantwana will be without midfield workhorse Karabo Dlamini who was red-carded on Sunday. ‘The red card destabilised us a bit, but I believe we have enough cover to draft in someone who we believe will cover that slot without us changing our plans,’ she said.
Winger Sphumelele Shamase, who was substituted due to a suspected shoulder injury, is well on her way to recovery and is being monitored by the medical team.