Thabo Senong is still confident that his charges will make it to the next round of the Fifa Under-20 World Cup.
Senong was talking after the team’s regeneration training session at the training field outside Suwon Stadium, Seoul, and the venue in which they lost 2-1 to Japan in their opening match.
“We are disappointed by the result but not dejected nor discouraged,” he said.
“We need to qualify for the next round but we are going to need players with big hearts.”
Senong said today’s training session was crucial because they needed to flush out lactic acid from the players’ bodies. They also needed to loosen some tight muscles.
“The players are a bit stressed about the result but the spirit and mood is still good in the team. It is our duty as the technical team to lift them up. We are in competition now and they need to remain focused,” said the mentor.
The players were to get together tonight for an analysis of their next opponents, Italy, who lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening match.
Tomorrow, they will back in training for a tactical session in preparation of the Wednesday game.
The match kicks off at 5pm (10am South African time) at the Suwon Stadium.
South Africa now need at least a win and a draw to make it to the next round – four points are usually good enough to take you to the second round in such tournaments.
Midfielder Thabo Cele, who recently signed for Benfica in Portugal, was quite proud of his performance and shared the coach’s confidence that the team would still make it to the next round.
“It was my first game at a World Cup. I was quite excited and proud that I managed to put a good performance. Unfortunately we did not get the result but we can still go through,” he said.
“The coach has been motivating us and the team spirit is high. There is good camaraderie. Much as it was my first time with the team, the other players welcomed me so well that I immediately felt I was part of the family.”
Bidvest Wits defender Reeve Frosler, who joined the team on the eve of their first game against Japan due to his club commitments, shared the same sentiments as Cele and the coach that the spirits were high within the team.
“The mood in the camp is very positive. I love the guys’ positive and good spirit. We motivate each other,” he said.
“We will take all the positives from the first game to our next match,”
Frosler said he could now smile now that he was at the World Cup after all the flights, which lasted almost 24 hours. He said he was focused and would only celebrate Wits’ Absa Premiership victory once this tournament was over.
The player, who is likely to start at right back for the Italy game, said he hoped his experience at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup would prove invaluable for the team.
There are seven other players in the team who were in Chile for the Under-17 tournament: Kobanelo Kodisang, Sibongakonke Mbatha, Wiseman Meyiwa, Mondli Mpoto, Sanele Tshabalala, Tendo Mukumela and Khulekani Kubheka.
The stage is set for a royale battle when the team takes on a wounded Italy. Whichever team loses this one might as well start packing their bags.