CAPE TOWN – With Thabo Senong anticipating a few changes in their must-win clash against Portugal in the last round of group matches of the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Poland due to tired legs, the SA Under-20 coach maintains that they will stick to their structure on the day.
South Africa are in a tight corner at the global showpiece as their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage are hanging by a thread following back-to-back defeats in their first two matches of the group stage.
South Africa lost their opener against Argentina 5-2 and then were beaten 1-0 by South Korea.
Now bottom and pointless in Group F, Amajita will have to throw everything at Portugal, who they will meet tonight (8.30pm SA time) at Stadion Miejski Bielsko-Biaa, in order to avoid an early exit from the global showpiece for a successive campaign.
The permutations to advance are simple: South Africa have to bank on group leaders Argentina beating South Korea in their last round match, while they need to thump Portugal in their encounter.
From there they can hope to go through either as second-place group finishers or as one of the best four third-place finishers from the group stage.
That will take character considering that Senong has bemoaned his troop's tired legs.
Amajita's training session underway at TS Rekord's training grounds in Bielsko Biala this morning ahead of their final #U20WC Group F match against Portugal this Friday. Kick-off is at 20h30. 🌍⚽🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/Qd7l6ML91K— SAFA.net (@SAFA_net) May 30, 2019
“Players have lost their legs and their energy,” he said after the team’s training session at TS Reskord’s training grounds in Bielsko Biala yesterday. “They’ve covered a lot of distance. In our approach (against Portugal), we are looking at rotating and refreshing some of the playing personnel and also adjusting the tactics.”
As if things couldn’t get worse Senong highlighted that they have at least three players who are still waiting for the green light in the medical room.
“The session went well (yesterday). We trained very well even though there’s about three players that still need to be cleared medically,” he said.
“All we are doing now is to try and work on recovery, motivation and analysis. And a little bit of psychology because we are already in the tournament (mid) phase.”
The coach is still adamant that they’ll go for a kill.
“We are still maintaining the structure in our team because we are still approaching this game professionally with an aim to win,” he explained.
Among the changes that Senong is expected to make tonight, many will be eager to see the inclusion of Leicester City striker Khanya Leshabela who’s been on the bench since the tournament kicked off.