Amajita: Poland, here we come

2019-05-23 10:51

U-20 side gets ready for Argentina and to make SA’s World Cup dreams come true.

Of all South African football teams that have qualified for a Fifa World Cup, only the men’s Under-20 side have gone beyond the first round.

The current generation of Amajita will be eager to emulate the feat – achieved by only the class of 2009 – at the World Cup edition that gets under way in Poland on Thursday.

South Africa open their campaign against Argentina on Saturday.

Amajita will get into the 24-nation tournament having had to conclude their last phase of preparations under the guidance of assistant coach Helman Mkhalele.

This after the team’s head coach, Thabo Senong, was forced to leave camp to return home following the death of his mother last week.

Mkhalele, who was to guide the team in their last warm-up match against Ukraine in Kiev last night, indicated this week that the technical team had already profiled Amajita’s Group F opponents, which also include Korea Republic and Portugal.

He added that facing World Cup-bound teams such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Panama in warm-up matches in the past few weeks helped the South African technical team have a good measure of Amajita’s readiness for the tournament.

According to the former Bafana Bafana midfielder, the game against Ukraine was used to work on “some key tactical areas we want our boys to apply in our first match against Argentina”.

Senong (38) is expected to return to Poland just in time for Amajita’s opener against six-time champions Argentina.

The tournament in the east European country will mark a fourth appearance for Amajita and the second time in a row that Senong will have guided the team at this event.

Things did not turn out well for Senong and his charges at the last edition in Korea two years ago as Amajita bombed out in the first round after two defeats and a draw.

Amajita at a training session at UJ Soweto Campus before they went to Poland. Picture: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

A top-two finish in Poland will guarantee South Africa a spot in the knockout stages.

Mkhalele and Senong, who announced their final 21-member squad this week, reckon that they have assembled the best team.

It is mostly comprised of players who were in the team that won a bronze medal – and a subsequent World Cup qualification – at the U-20 Afcon finals in Niger early this year.

“This was not an easy process to go through, given the fact that we had a very good list of talented players in our provisional squad,” admitted Mkhalele.

“We had constant engagements with our head coach [Senong] during his selection process, and that enabled us to select what we regard as the best squad for the competition.”

Senong had indicated that the Amajita project should serve as the development pathway for future Under-23 and Bafana players.

In Poland, South Africa can also be motivated by the fact that, should the first and second spots elude them, they can count on a chance of advancing as a third-best-placed team.

This is how then coach Serame Letsoaka and his side progressed to the knockout stage in 2009.

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September 15 2019