Head coach of the South African U17 Women’s National Team, Simphiwe Dludlu says she is happy with the kind of showing her charges displayed in the two international friendly matches against Morocco.
Bantwana, who were in camp for the first time, held their own in the first game, playing to a one all draw on Friday, 27 October at the Mohammed VI football complex in Salé, before going down 2-nil to their hosts in the second fixture on Monday, 30 October 2023 at Père Jégo stadium in Casablanca.
The exercise is to prepare both teams for the start of 2024 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup qualifiers in February next year, where South Africa has been drawn against Ethiopia in a two-legged tie.
Bantwana is one of the nations that got a bye in the first round, and enters the competition in the second round.
Victory against Ethiopia will see Dludlu’s charges come up against the winners between DR Congo and Kenya in May 2024.
The fourth and final round will be played in June.
Only three countries will earn the right to represent the African continent at the 2024 FIFA U17 Women’s Cup that will be held, for the first time ever, in the Dominican Republic from 16 October to 3 November 2024.
Sixteen teams, including the hosts, will make up the tournament, which will be the eighth edition of the competition.
Spain are the defending two-time champions.
Dludlu spoke to CentreCircle.online from Morocco after the two matches to give her impressions:
IMPRESSIONS OF THE SECOND MATCH:
We were able to answer a lot of questions. We wanted to see other players how they respond when they start their match and how do other players respond when they come off from the bench. We tried different way of playing the strategy and we saw ourselves answering some of the questions that Morocco was asking especially when they were overloading from the wings, and they were joining into the midfield, so they were trying to do a 4v3 against us in midfield. We struggled a bit for the first 10/20 minutes and then we tried to find solutions when it came to that, so I think I’m happy with some aspects of the game. I think lapse of concentration is one negative that we look at and it’s a weakness that we need to improve on, but this team is 10 days old, not ten months, two matches and with a few training sessions in between, I don’t think we did too bad.
WHERE IS YOUR TEAM IN TERMS OF LEVEL OF COMPETITION?
I think a lot of the players responded well – I could say maybe in 70% of the players responded well and we are able to see if players are in correct positions and all of that. When it comes to basics of playing I think we are on par, we were matching with Morocco, it’s just how we are playing ourselves and some of the players you can see that in their club they’re used to playing the ball long in the air then ran after it but because we are a new team we’re still trying to find and build a culture and it takes a while to do that and at the same time you won’t get the positive results that you want of winning a match, so I think in terms of competition a lot of the players got to realize what does international football mean. Some of them they don’t think we know when we tell them, but you can’t tell players they have to see, they have to feel it, they have to play it, and go through it, only then will they come with experience to know exactly what it means to play international football at this level.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNT?
We have learnt a lot lessons. In the first game we were leading we conceded in the 85th minute and today we considered in the first half also in critical moments of the game and even the second goal that we considered we considered in a transition moment where we were pressing up high. So, normally when you are trailing you either sit back and try to absorb pressure and go on the counterattack but instead, we pressed up high, we changed the formation we went to a 4-4-2 from a 4-2-3-1, at some point we saw ourselves pressing up really high with a 4-2-4. We tried different formations and tried to bring in different personnel. Also, the intensity of the game was too high when you looked at the bench you realized some of the players were not going to survive but we carried on, and soldiered on but what was important for us was how the players adapted to the change in formations.
WHAT ARE THE POSITIVES FROM THE TWO GAMES?
We have a good report back to say tactically where can the players be technically consistent – I think that is important to say when we’re under pressure how do we still keep our strategy, our formation, and how do we continuously perform our roles especially midfielders where if they have an overload do they now dismantle themselves and not play according to instruction or even adapt, so those are some of the positives that started off as a negative and when we got the response for that we saw the positives. The first game we struggled with stopping the two center backs from initiating buildup and it was a negative for us, but in the second game we found a strategy and a way to say how do we manoeuvre and shift between the attacking midfielder and our striker, the combination between the two of them to force them on the long ball which they didn’t like much, so it was a positive for us, unfortunately, we figured out a bit too late in the game. Also, we created quite a number of chances when we were pressing up high and didn’t give them time and space to play, we created a lot of chances, we were just unfortunate that this became a negative that we couldn’t convert those chances that we created from forcing them to make into making errors.
AS THESE ARE NEW PLAYERS, WHAT WAS YOUR MESSAGE TO THEM AFTER THE TWO GAMES?
I think a lot of them had their heads down and I needed to make it clear to them to say the pressure is that how are we executing the simple task of control passing, when we don’t have the ball let’s go compact, when we have the ball let’s go big. I need to commend the coaches where these players come from in those clubs – a lot of them understand the game, they see the game, they know how to apply themselves, but you can see that the intensity is not the same as in the national team so that’s where the coaches will need to improve when it comes to that. The last time six or seven players that are in this team played together was a year ago, so that’s not enough – technically all of them are new in the team, it’s a new competition, it’s a new year and we’ve got two 13-year-olds in the team and those two 13-year-olds are key players in the team. Today we didn’t start with both of them because we wanted to see how do they come off the bench and they changed the game, so that already tells you that with more time, with more friendly games preparation times, more time that will spend contact sessions with the players and giving them programs to go back home to improve and be better, we surely have a bright future with this team.
WHAT NEXT FOR THIS TEAM? ANY PLANS BEFORE THE QUALIFIERS?
I think it’s key for us to go back, and seeing that this is almost exam time, we need to take that into consideration. We are putting programmes together to say can we get together after the exams and prepare. The months of December and January are going to be crucial for us because those two months come before our qualifiers against Ethiopia in February, so it’s going to be quite important for us to be very intentional with our camps, and I hope that the Association will buy into the idea of us making sure that we get more players in, get to prepare together and be ready for the competition as soon as it starts.
DOES THE FUTURE LOOK BRIGHT FOR BANYANA BANYANA? AND WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET THIS TEAM TO BE WHERE YOU WANT THEM TO BE?
To be a future Banyana Banyana takes a lot. It takes sacrifice, it takes dedication, and timing of everything, and when it’s your time to go. But the only people that determine if these players can be future Banyana Banyana players are the coaches in the clubs, it’s the players themselves, it’s the level of competition – if we have more youth teams playing youth competitions all over the country, if we have more structured football for them in schools league, U15 league, U17 league, more competitions and proper coaching at grassroots, even at their clubs at that level, then these players will definitely have a bright future because being a Banyana Banyana player you need to walk your journey properly, you cannot cut corners. So, it might be nice and easy for us to say yes (to being future Banyana Banyana players) but the fact of the matter is that we need to be realistic and be fair about the level and the standard. Banyana Banyana did well in the World Cup and most of those players have had heartaches previously in the Youth teams, U17s, U20s and they’re only finding success now ten years later into their careers. So, we need to be fair and realistic to say those players by the time we say the future is bright, we’ve done everything right, the long-term athlete development of it is on par with programs, supplement that and they speak to the ambition of the Association and the clubs so that woman’s football goes further and further.
CAF U17 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS – SECOND ROUND FIXTURES:
|Team 1||Aggregate score||Team 2||1st leg||2nd leg|
2024 FIFA U17 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS SCHEDULE:
|FIRST ROUND||1st leg||8-10 December 2023|
|2nd leg||15-17 December 2023|
|SECOND ROUND||1st leg||2-4 February 2024|
|2nd leg||9-11 February 2024|
|THIRD ROUND||1st leg||10-12 May 2024|
|2nd leg||17-19 May 2024|
|FOURTH ROUND||1st leg||7-9 June 2024|
|2nd leg||14-16 June 2024|
By Matlhomola Morake