Thabo Senong, U20 coach of South Africa speaks at a press conference. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Having been handed a 5-2 hammering by Argentina in their opening match of the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, South Africa’s coach, Thabo Senong, reckons they can reach the knockout stages.

Amajita are in Group F in the ongoing global showpiece, and have two matches to go in the group stage where they will clash with South Korea and Portugal. But if their match against the South Americans is anything to go by, then Senong’s troops have to double their efforts in the remaining matches if they are to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2009.

“We have to remain positive because we are a team that has won many matches before,” Senong said. “It’s about teaching the boys to come back from bad results. Football has a lot of surprises. I still believe in our team, players and planning in the group stages. Group F is a very tough group with Argentina, Portugal and South Korea, but we have to plan against them.”

On Saturday, South Africa’s turning point was after Keenan Phillips, who scored the equaliser in the first half, got his marching orders in the second. The South Americans capitalised on the opportunity and they netted four goals in the stanza, with the South Africans getting their second from a spot-kick that was converted by Lyle Foster.

“It was just a critical phase. Everything happened in just one moment - we concede, they get a penalty and it’s 2-1 against us. We lost a player and were numerically inferior, then it was very difficult for our boys to come with solutions. We tried to adjust our tactics just to get an equaliser to stay in the game. But we opened at the back and Argentina took advantage. It was very difficult. The sooner we forget the match, the better,” Senong said.

With the South Africans scheduled to meet the Koreans tomorrow (8.30pm) at Tychy Stadium, there will be no room for disappointments if they are to make in the last 16. Moreover, this will present Senong an opportunity to prove that their qualification for this tournament was not a fluke.

However, without the services of Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, who is injured, Promise Mkhuma, Kobamelo Kodisang and Khanya Leshabela have to come to the fore.

“We have to plan against Korea and Portugal and try to steal the results and points from them,” Senong said. “We have to get three points against them because that’s the only way that we can stay in the tournament. But we can also target two wins.”

@Mihlalibaleka

 

The Star

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