South Africa hold edge in race for FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup

South Africa are hoping to qualify for a second ever FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup after taking a commanding 5-1 first leg lead in their preliminary tie against Morocco.

The side must now travel to north Africa for the second leg on February 17, but with such a healthy advantage should feel they have one foot in the finals in Uruguay in November.

“I am 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,” South Africa coach Simphiwe Dludlu says.

“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.

“I am not going to be complacent and the girls will certainly not be complacent – we actually two feet out 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 are 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.

“Scoring so many goals says that we are doing something right. I am 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 – and 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.”

She adds they have improved their defence for the second leg.

“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.”

The side will be without midfielder Karabo Dlamini for the second leg after she was red-carded.

“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.”