South Africa returned to the FIFA U-17 Women World Cup in Uruguay on Tuesday for the second time after making their debut at this level in Trinidad and Tobago back during 2010.
And while the second event was slightly better compared to their debut when they lost 10-1 to Germany, 4-0 to Mexico and 3-1 to South Korea, this time fared much better as they held the selfsame Mexico to a goalless draw under windy and misty conditions.
But Fikile Magama became an instant heroine when she cleared off the line after goalkeeper Kay-Dee Windvogel was beaten by Allison Gonzalez who had rounded her and rolled the ball goalward, only for the South African defender to scramble it to safety in the 93rd minute.
The gap in standards was clearly evident as the Mexicans dominated their African opponents throughout the match and with a little bit of luck, could have won the tie handsomely, had the Chilean referee and her assistants been more vigilant.
In the 29thth minute, Nicole Perez struck inside the penalty area and for once Windvogel appeared to spill the ball and it rolled towards her goals, but she quickly regained her composure and scooped the ball off the line.
Mexico’s organization, technical ability and physicality were telling factors against the smaller South Africans who never really settled down and lost possession cheaply even though they gave the distinct impression of being much more skillful than they displayed on the day.
South Africa’s first real attempt only arrived in the 37th minute when Jessica Wade smashed the ball from outside the penalty area and it sailed inches wide. And Chelsea Daniels was a livewire, spelling danger every time she was in possession but it just wasn’t her day.
But Simphiwe Dludlu and her technical committee would be very proud of this group of girls who dug deep and refused to budge when Mexico applied the pressure and they hung on for dear life to proudly earn a point where few gave them a chance.
Now they have to build on this result and go for broke in their second against Japan even though it is not going to be an easy ride when one considers that the Japanese were resolute as well against Brazil who could not break them down.
It was a massive result especially when taken into consideration the fact that Brazil and Japan also cancelled out each other in the earlier game, leaving the group without goals scored or conceded and all four teams earning a single point each.