The South Africa Under-17 Women’s side has safely arrived back home after an eight-day tour of Spain where they defeated UD Levante U17 team 4-2, and drew 1-1 against the Valencia U20 team.
The friendlies were part of South Africa’s preparation for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, which takes place in Uruguay in November.
Head coach Simphiwe Dludlu said this was a worthwhile exercise and just that they needed.
“This was our first travel outside the continent – as a team the furthest we have been is Morocco where we qualified for the World Cup. It was good for the group to have this experience so that some the time to travel to Uruguay it is out of our system, and we are just focused on the tournament. It was a good for the girls to go out and learn about other cultures,” said Dludlu.
“It was also crucial to play against the La Liga teams who gave us a good test, and gave us an indication of where we needed to adjust. We had nine new players in the squad and it was a chance to see them, and I must admit some of them made an impression. This tour also helped the technical team to improve certain aspects, especially when you see when you come from after the BRICS tournament played recent here at home.”
In the two fixtures, Lonathemba Mhlongo scored a brace in the first match, with Karabo Dlamini and Miche Minnies chipping in with one each, while Ember Edwards scored Bantwana’s solitary goal in the draw.
“What I have seen is that we have improved a great deal on match fitness – previously we were good for about 60 minutes, but now we can go all the way to 90, and still score, which was done by different players and that gives me the comfort that any player can grab a goal. We were able to absorb pressure from the opposition – and that is a good sign of improvement,” added Dludlu.
“We can certainly improve on our scoring rate, and also our finishing. The communication between the players on the field is not as good as it should be but overall I am happy with what I saw. There is still some work to be done, but this was a good start.”
The former Banyana Banyana captain was also impressed with the attitude of the players during the travel.
“With Uruguay far from South Africa, travelling is going to form a huge part of preparations. The experience we get from this trip will stand us in good stead when we head for the tournament – the girls have shown that they are good travellers, and adapt well to different situations. We were able to see how far we can push them in this particular trip with so many stops, and it important to see how they spend their time in the plane,” said the Bantwana mentor.
Having participated in the BRICS tournament, and now done with the tour of Spain, Dludlu believes the plan is coming together to get the team ready.
“We want to travel early to South America to acclimatise because it is a very important factor in our plans. We have already submitted 35 names to FIFA for the tournament, and what is left is for the technical team to go through the squad again with a fine comb to select the best of the best. I am very close to my finalised team as we have already seen what we needed to see from the players. We won’t be looking around anymore, the focus is on the 35, and to trim it down to the required 21,” concluded Dludlu.
“ON behalf of the entire squad, I would like to send my greatest gratitude to SAFA and La Liga, who made all of this possible. This exercise is a great show of support and indicates that everything is done to make sure we prepare thoroughly and do the best we can in Uruguay. We cannot afford to leave anything to chance in our preparation, and we are glad we have been afforded the opportunity to get into gear as early as possible.”
The FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup will take place from 13 November to 1 December 2018.
South Africa has been drawn in Group B alongside Mexico, Japan and Brazil.