Stade Seyni Kountche, Niamey
South Africa and Mali meet in the final match of the 2015 CAFU17 championship in Niamey for the right to be crowned African junior champions.
The Amajimbos, term for boys in local South African dialect, are in the final for the first time while Mali were runners-up in 1997 in Botswana after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the junior Pharaohs. Amajimbos best ever finish was a fourth placement in 2005 in Gambia where they lost the third place playoff match to Cote d'Ivoire.
Both sides marched to Sunday's final unbeaten. With respective impressive and enterprising talents, the final is set to be thrilling, the two sides having battled to an enthralling 2-2 draw when they met earlier in a tournament group 'B' fixture. Amajimbos had to come from two goals down to salvage a point.
Mali's charge is set to be led by the dazzling Sidiki Maiga whose dexterity with the ball is complimented by the power and inventive skills of playmaker and joint leading scorer Boubacar Traore, speedy Ousmane Traore, Mamadou Fofana and Aly Malle. At the back skipper Abdoul Karim Dante and Mamadou Sangare are set to be pivotal as they seek to take care of the Amajimbos threat which inventive skipper Nelson Maluleke is set to lead.
Then there is the threat of exciting playmaker Ntuthuko Mbatha and Luvuyo Ketlego Mkatshana in a Amajimbos assemblage which with its flair and attacking verve has the capacity to take on any U17 in the world and emerge tops.
"We are preparing the way we have done in other games without putting pressure on the players. However, this is a final and we have taken time to study the strengths and weaknesses of our opponent in order to deal with it. But obviously our goal is to take the cup home to all the people of Mali who are looking forward to us winning," Mali coach Baye Ba said ahead of the match at the Stade Seyni Kountche in Niamey.
South Africa coach Molefi Petrus Ntseki said: "It has been a long and difficult road to travel to get to the final. It is a culmination of hard work and the preparation we did getting into this tournament. We are playing Mali for the second time having played a draw in our first meeting in the group stages. We have identified the weaknesses and strengths of the team and we've done all that needed and prepared well for this game," Ntseki said adding: "We don’t have any major injuries that can hamper the team in final. We will play our normal game but bearing in mind that the most important thing for us is not to concede. We are goal scoring team so keeping things tight at the back will be important."
A cracking final awaits as the continent and world have a final glimpse of the junior stars who in a few years to come will lit the African football scene and carry the flag of the next generation of world superstars; a befitting end to what has been a hugely successful and spectacular show of 'uncut' football diamonds.