JOHANNESBURG - It is victory or bust for Amajita as they take on Italy in their group match of the Fifa Under 20 World Cup in South Korea on Wednesday.
A 2-1 defeat in their opening match against Japan has left the South Africans in danger of early elimination, and coach Thabo Senong will have to muster all his tactical acumen as well as motivational skills if his team is to emulate the class of 2009 and progress to the knockout stage.
In Italy they face a team in a position similar to theirs after the young Azzuri were beaten 1-0 by Uruguay in their tournament opener.
But this is not where Amajita should be, not when they had the beating of Japan. But typical of all South African teams, a lack of killer instinct proved their downfall.
Having taken an early lead through Grant Margeman’s deflected shot you’d have expected Amajita to go for the kill.
Though they didn’t really seek to render the match over as a contest, Amajita retreated into a shell and played on the counter-attack after going 1-0 up, they still created good enough chances to could have put daylight between themselves and their opponents.
Luther Singh had two that he should have buried and Keletso Makgalwa should also have found the net. Neither could capitalise on their chances, and Japan lived to fight on and actually eventually win the match.
Of course some will use the the fact that SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits didn’t agree to send key players with the squad as a reason for Amajita’s failure.
That could well be. But Senong still managed to put out a team that should have done the job against the tricky Japanese.
And now, with South African teams traditionally struggling against European opposition, the task of progressing will be all that harder, especially with the Italians also under so much pressure to register points and stay in line for progression to the next round.
A former South African international player watching the match was spot on with his analysis of the team on a social media platform. Amajita played too deep in their own half, they gave Japan too much time and space on the ball; there was no communication at the back; they didn’t hold on to possession; they failed to use their skills to good effect in the final third and they just didn’t make use of their chances.
It is a typical South African football problem that continues to rob us of the success our talent deserves. Get all these right and Amajita should get the better of Italy on Wednesday. After all, nothing but victory will do.