6 March 2017 – SAFA Technical Director, Neil Tovey, has lauded Amajita for qualifying for the 2017 FIFA u20 Men’s World Cup that will be played in South Korea from 20 May to 11 June 2017.
South Africa, alongside fellow African representatives Zambia, Senegal and Guinea, will join the hosts and 19 other countries in the tournament to make up the 24-nation event that will be spread across six hosts cities.
Tovey says they have made the country proud.
“It’s quite a great achievement, not just for the u20 side, but for South African football in general. This shows there is gradual development and with junior teams qualifying for major tournaments, that goes to show the future is really bright,” said Tovey.
“The u17 boys’ team went to Chile for the World Cup two years ago, and now about eight players who qualified that team are in the current u20 squad that has booked their place in South Korea.
“This is what we mean when we talk about development. Just last year the u23 team went to the Rio Olympics, and to continue the natural progression of our national teams, Bafana Bafana must qualify for Russia 2018,” added Tovey.
The former Bafana Bafana captain said now that the u20 team has reached their goal, there is no more pressure on the team in Zambia.
“The qualification for the World Cup was key, so anything beyond that is a bonus. Yes, obviously you want to go all the way but now you are against the host nation, which makes things more difficult. They must go out there and do the best they can. All the pressure was about qualifying for the World Cup,” said Tovey.
The former Bafana Bafana captain said in terms of where the team wants to go in future, it was imperative to use the remaining matches to work on preparing for the World Cup.
“Yes, you obviously want to win the AFCON but you have done the job you set out to do. The boys must also not think about the previous matches against Zambia where they lost, this is a completely different game altogether.”
In three matches at the AFCON, Amajita have scored nine goals – three per game – but have also conceded a total of six, something that does not sit well with the Technical Director, himself a solid defender in his time.
“We have been pretty good in this tournament, the strikers have done their job even though at times we could have scored more, but that is not a problem. The only challenge is that we can’t keep a clean sheet. We have to defend a lot better, we have to organise ourselves collectively as a team, not just the defence but all the way from the strikers,” said Tovey.
The SAFA TD said the players have to get tighter because if one wants to play in the World Cup, you can’t give away so much space to anyone.
“We have to start working now on our ability to defend properly. From what I have seen, there are too many gaps between departments when we defend but I hope they will be more compact going forward.
“This is not about playing a defensive game, but being more organised when we lose the ball and how we adjust so we can assist one another. At the moment the communication seems poor in some areas and needs to be made better.”
South Africa takes on hosts Zambia in the first semi-final on Wednesday, 8 March at Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
Senegal and Guinea will contest the other semi-final on Thursday, 9 March at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Kickoff for both matches is 18h00.