3 February 2018 – Fran Hilton-Smith, the Assistant Technical Director-HOD Women’s Football at the South African Football Association (SAFA), says she believes in the Bantwana squad to do well against Morocco.

The South African U17 Women’s National Team faces their counterparts from Morocco on Sunday 4 February in an all-important 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup qualifier on Sunday, 4 February 2018.

This first leg second round clash kicks off at 15h00 and entry is free.

“This is a very massive match, not just for Bantwana but also for the country, and if they can pull it off, the World Cup tournament beckons in Uruguay later this year. In 2010 we went with the U17 squad to Trinidad and Tobago – the only women’s football national team to have qualified for a World Cup, so we certainly hope these girls can repeat it. We have a great squad currently in camp and I really believe this is the one we can pin our hopes on,” said Hilton-Smith.

The North Africans have been in South African since Sunday, 28 January to continue with preparations for the qualifier.

“Morocco are taking this seriously and them coming here earlier than normal is proof of that. They want this badly, and they have a lot of relationship with Europe so I am sure they are very prepared. They have come here way in advance to acclimatize, so we need to make sure we are ready for them on Sunday and don’t get any surprises from them,” added Hilton-Smith.

She also believes it would have ideal for South Africa to play the first leg away so they can finish off the business at home.

But what gives her hope is that the visitors have not been too active in the qualifiers as they had a bye in the preliminary stage and got a walkover in the previous round after Equatorial Guinea withdrew from the qualifiers.

“It’s good for us and not for them because the only way to compete is to compete, to play matches. Fortunately our team has already played some matches and this puts Morocco at a disadvantage and we hope that will count for us on Sunday. But having said that, it is important that we are well prepared for them and not take this lightly,” said Hilton-Smith.

“We would have loved to play the first leg away because I believe it’s a disadvantage to play the first leg at home – but that’s how it has panned out, so we need to make sure we get a good result at home and finish the job here on Sunday so that when we travel in two weeks time, half the job is done. You don’t want to go there needing points or to win at all costs as that can be too much of a burden for the players.”

She has also edged the public to come in numbers to support the team.

“Public support is very vital and we wish everyone comes out to back the girls on Sunday. I have seen on several occasions in my travels that most teams win their matches from the stands – if the stands are full, it can be intimidating to the visitors. So we urge South Africans in and around the Dobsonville Stadium to come and be part of this big mission for our country – the squad’s victory is the country’s victory,” concluded Hilton-Smith.

“And to the girls – go out there and give your all, in fact give 200 percent. You are just two matches from writing your names in the history books. We know you can do it, the country expects you do it and we certainly hope that you can make us proud. All the best.”

Bantwana and Morocco meet in the return on Saturday, 17 February 2018 at Stade Boubker Aamar in Sale, Morocco.

Kickoff is at 14h30 local time (16h30 SA Time).

In the other 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup qualifiers, Ghana will take on Djibouti while Nigeria will lock horns with Cameroon.

The overall winners will represent the African continent at the World Cup tournament, which takes place in Uruguay from 20 November to 13 December 2018.

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