JOHANNESBURG – A win for Amajita is non-negotiable against Burundi tomorrow in the last Group A match of the ongoing Africa Youth Championships (AYC) in Niger, so coach Thabo Senong will be hoping his men have their scoring boots on.
It’s been a disappointment AYC for the South Africans with draws against Niger (1-1) and Nigeria (0-0), but a convincing win against Burundi will likely seal their spot in the semi-finals and automatic qualification for the World Cup in Poland in May.
South Africa’s biggest concern has been the lack of a target man up front as Thabiso Monyane is yet to fire after a couple of goals in the qualifiers.
Against the hosts, Amajita rarely came to the party as they failed to match Niger’s aerial threat and technical acumen.
But they produced an improved showing against seven-time champions Nigeria, although it took some heroic goalkeeping by captain Khulekani Khubeka to ensure they kept their hopes of making their second successive World Cup alive.
There won’t be room for errors against Burundi, who put up a gallant fight against Niger to claim a point after coming from three goals down on Tuesday night to take the group down to the wire.
Senong had vowed to remain true to their identity by fielding his usual line-up from the qualifiers and successful Cosafa Cup campaign, but now might be the time to tweak things a little.
If the Amajita coach continues to overlook Kobamelo Kodisang and Khanya Leshabela, who play their trade in Portugal and England respectively, that might come back to haunt him.
The pair offer attacking options with their appetite for goals, which will allow for the resurgence of ball players Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, Siphesihle Mkhize and Promise Mkhuma in midfield.
Defensively, Amajita are sound, especially with the leadership of Kubheka, who continued with his fine form from the qualifiers against the Flying Eagles of Nigeria on Tuesday. And left-back Sibusiso Mabiliso, a regular at AmaZulu, brings a wealth of experience and guidance to his defensive compatriots.
It’s all up for grabs in Group A, although Nigeria have the upper hand as they need just a point to advance. Niger are second on two points but face the Flying Eagles, while the South Africans, also on two in third, seek a high scoring win against Burundi, who can advance if they beat Amajita and Nigeria beat or draw with Niger.@Milhalibaleka