The South African U17 Women’s played their first match in about a year with a new group of players and managed to hold their Moroccan counterparts to a 1-all draw in an international friendly match at the Mohammed VI football complex in Salé on Friday (27 October 2023).
The clash is the start of preparations for the 2024 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup qualifiers where they will face Ethiopia in February next year, while Morocco will take on Niger.
The North Africans will be hoping for back-to-back appearances at the tournament as they were in India in 2022, one of the three African representatives along with Nigeria and Tanzania.
Against Morocco, South Africa’s Head Coach Simphiwe Dludlu handed out new caps to seven debutants in the starting line-up, adding a further three to trio that came off the bench.
SA U17 Women’s National team debutants vs Morocco:
- Nomfundo Motaung
- Bonolo Phoshoko (captain)
- Sethabile Kamwanda
- Katleho Malebana
- Nompilo Dlamini
- Khwezi Khoza
- Gugu Mabitsela
- Bonolo Mokoma
- Zoe October
- Nomaswazi Vilakazi
Mabitsela, introducing herself to the international scene with a wonderful strike, gave the visitors the lead in the 39thminute, and an advantage at recess.
“We scored in the first half because we were having moments on the ball where we showed confidence. I think our defensive organization was a bit better considering that we’ve only had about four sessions for the first time in over a year as a team. This is a fairly new team that was able to contain Morocco and still play the way we wanted according to our strategy,” said an elated Dludlu from Morocco.
“We suffered a couple of injuries and some of the players were cramping because of match fitness, that’s one of the aspects that made it difficult for us to stay in the game as much as we could to dominate, because in the second half that’s when Morocco got to score after they created a number of chances.”
Indeed, the second half was different cattle of fish for the South Africans who were on the backfoot for the better part of the stanza.
They eventually conceded with four minutes remaining on the clock when Mokhtar Jamai pounced with a well taken goal that gave the goalkeeper no chance.
“I was happy with a lot of elements that we did well as a team. Morocco had a lot of moments where in the second half they were interchanging, overloading on the sides and we struggled to deal with that in the second half, with fatigue kicking in but I think today we got our answers to see where we are and how we can build the team going forward,” added Dludlu.
While the former Banyana Banyana captain and defender was impressed with what she saw from her charges overall, she heaped praise on goalkeeper, Casey Gordon, who stood between victory and defeat.
“Some of the debutants were a bit nervous and they were not playing to their strengths, also giving the ball away in critical areas. But there’s a lot of positives that we are taking. We created opportunities even though we are trying to find our feet as to which is our style of play. I think the jet lag is still in there after you sit for more than 18 hours on two different flights, but that’s part of the game where we were able to test ourselves under pressure. These girls have gotten all that experience we want them to have of having to travel into a different country,” said Dludlu.
“When you start a team from scratch you won’t get everything correct especially with such little time that we spent together, but I’m happy. I think our goalkeeper Casey Gordon did well, made two critical saves that kept us in the game and gave us confidence and from there we could still play.”
Morocco and South Africa travel to the Père Jégo stadium in Casablanca for the second friendly scheduled for Monday 30 October.
This time the visitors are armed with lots of information and expect an even better match-up. Dludlu could even make some changes as she continues to study and build her team.
“For the second game we need to continue working on our combination play. The biggest lesson is that even when we under pressure let’s stick to our game plan, let’s keep the ball on the ground, let’s play to each other, let’s play to feet. In some moments loss of concentration crept in, which is a big aspect for us, we need to make sure that we don’t lose the ball easy in critical areas. But the positives far outweigh the weaknesses,” said the coach.
“For the next match, as we saw some players came off with cramps, some with injuries, we will see how we refresh the squad because as much as we’ve got a number of players, we also need to be fair to say will they be able to handle the pressure. But in the same breath, because we are building a team, we need to expose them, give them a chance to play as it is not about the score line, it’s about the results that we are looking for, to say are we on the right path, how are we building before we play our first qualifier in February next year against Ethiopia.”
The 2024 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup will be hosted by the Dominican Republic from 16 October – 3 November, and will be the eighth edition.
Both Morocco and South Africa enter the second round of qualifiers after receiving byes in the first round.
They will be in action in February next year, with the third phase scheduled for May while the fourth and final round is in June to reveal the identity of the three nations will fly high the African flag at the global junior women’s tournament.
Spain are the reigning champions, and it remains to be seen who will be crowned Queens of the World at U17 level among the 16 nation that will take part in this prestigious event.
SA Starting 11 vs Morocco:
Casey Gordon (GK), Adrielle Mibe, Nomfundo Motaung, Bonolo Phoshoko (c), Sethabile Kamwande, Lindelwa Mabuza, Mpho Nkadimeng, Katleho Malebana, Nompilo Dlamini, Gugu Mabitsela, Khwezi Khoza
Shifaa Hoossen (GK), Bilquees Salie (GK), Alvina Nwansoh Enoh, Bonolo Mokoma, Lulamela Vena, Phumela Tshamlabo, Julia Goncalves, Inathi Nongoyi, Nomaswazi Vilakazi, Zoe October, Tatiana Correia, Thulisa July
Head Coach: Simphiwe Dludlu
By Matlhomola Morake