The South Africans will be extra motivated by their clean bill of health in the medical room and the return of captain Khulekani Kubheka, who was suspended for the opener. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Givemore Khupe believes that his Amajita companions will be self-motivated in the efforts to get a positive result in their clash against seven-time African Youth champions Nigeria in the second match of group A at the ongoing Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations showpiece in Niger.

The two teams will go head-to-head today (5.30pm) at Stade General Seyni Kountche.

Amajita, who are currently second in the group, will likely take the cap of the underdogs, especially after their 1-1 draw against the hosts in the opener.

On the other hand, the Nigerians are deemed as favourites following a convincing 2-0 victory over Burundi in their respective opener.

Khupe though, is not fazed by the odds as he banks on his teammates to come out and play against the most successful team in the tournament.

“Since we have a good coach (Thabo Senong), and technical staff, I think everyone is prepared for this game,” said the defender, who is on loan to Cape Umoya United from Wits.

“We know that Nigeria is a very good team, so we get motivated playing against the players that they have. We believe that we’ll have a good challenge.”

Khupe, who led the line against Niger in the absence of skipper (and Umoya teammate) Khulekani Kubheka, added that although they managed to salvage a point against the hosts, they did well in terms of playing to the demands of the game.

On Saturday, the South Africans had the upper hand in the opening stages of the match, but in the second half they sat back and absorbed the pressure from the opponents, with hopes of catching them on a break.

“It was part of the game that we had to do most of the work in the first half,” he said.

“Niger are the hosts, and we were playing them in the first game, so they had the 12th man (the fans) in their favour. And the president of the country was also watching.

“But I think it was a positive result against the hosting nation.”

Going into today’s encounter, the South Africans will be extra motivated by their clean bill of health in the medical room and the return of captain Kubheka – who was suspended for the opener after receiving two yellow cards during the qualifiers.

With the top-two finishers in each of the groups advancing to the knockout stages, and also earning automatic qualification for the World Cup that will be hosted in Poland in May, Amajita are still safe for now.

However, Senong, who’s already taken teams to the 2017 World Cup in South Korea and recent back-to-back Cosafa Cups, believes that what will help them prevail is remaining true to their identity.

“Our strategy is not to lose our own identity (style of play),” Senong said. “We have to cut out the mistakes we made against Niger to increase our chances.

“I think we’ve played a lot of games building up to this tournament, and we’ve had some losses and wins.

“But we can’t start changing now because we are here. We have a way of playing – which is being organised when we attack, defend or holding the ball.”

@Mihlalibaleka


The Star

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