JOHANNESBURG – Amajita coach Thabo Senong says his team will have enough personnel to compete at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in May following their third-place finish at the U20 Africa Cup of Nations in Niger.
It was another memorable campaign for Senong and his national U20 team as they qualified for a second successive global showpiece.
Moreover, at this Afcon he rotated his squad, making sure that he gave an opportunity to almost every player that was called up.
The absence of the majority of his overseas-based players was evident especially upfront, but he’ll be pleased with the assessment that he made on players such as Thabiso Monyane, Bayanda Shangase and Khanya Leshabela - who plies his trade for English outfit Leicester City.
“I am happy for my boys, because they won the match and we played a very good team in Nigeria,” Senong said after Amajita’s 5-3 win on penalties against the Flying Eagles in the third-fourth place playoff on Saturday.
“Mainly for us was to rotate the squad and give some players caps. Secondly, we wanted to go to this game with a winning mentality because we saw it as a preparation for the World Cup. So, this was one of our second game for the World Cup preparations and we’ll asses and continue to build the team going forward.”
With the World Cup in Poland scheduled to take place from 25 May to 16 June, Amajita will not have enough time to prepare. During that period, the majority of their players will be playing in the second edition of the Diski Shield.
“Our boys don’t have enough international experience and they need a lot of friendlies,” Senong said. “That is the only way that we can fast track their experience. We have a good team but we lack a lot of friendlies - something that we didn’t play before we came here.”
Despite failing to win Afcon, Amajita will still pat themselves on the back considering how they managed to hold their own in the tournament. Group A wasn’t going to be easy to negotiate as they had to face hosts Niger, seven-time champions Nigeria and underdogs Burundi.
However, Amajita managed to put out a gallant fight as they drew Niger and Niger, while beating Burundi by 1-0 in the last match of the group in order to qualify for the World Cup.
“I am so happy that we gained a lot of experience because we played four quality teams,” Senong said. “We can now only look forward to a competition of this calibre so that we can improve our team.”
While the Diski Challenge will wrap up on Saturday, it waits to be seen whether some of the Amajita players will feature for their clubs as they only arrive back in SA on Wednesday.@Mihlalibaleka