South Africa’s National Under-20 squad (Amajita) will play two Group B matches instead of three, following the withdrawal of Namibia in the tournament, COSAFA confirmed in Kitwe, Zambia on Sunday, 2 December.
COSAFA stated that Namibia withdrew out of this tournament due to financial constraints they were facing building up to the Southern regional junior football tournament. This will see Amajita only having to face Mauritius and Eswatini as they aim to defend their title.
This outcome means that only winners of Group B will progress to the knockout stages of the competition, while best runners-up from either Group A and C will help make the final four teams that are to feature in semi-finals of the tournament to be held on 11 December 2018.
Amajita coach Thabo Senong stated that it was quite unfortunate that Namibia could not feature in this year’s addition, while also adding that South Africa will do everything in their power to try and fight to defend their title.
“We had our first training session in Kitwe, following our arrival in Zambia last night,” Senong said following their training session at Arthur Davies Stadium.
“This exercise was just to help our boys acclimatise to Zambia’s weather conditions building up to our match against Mauritius tomorrow. The fact that we are the defending champions puts us under no pressure, whatsoever,” Senong added.
“This tournament provides us with an opportunity to expose our players to high level of competitive football and help them to grow as up and coming professionals as well. We also have next year’s Africa Under-20 Cup of Nation tournament which is now three months away and also serves as 2019 FIFA World Cup qualifier. This tournament provides us with the needed preparation to be ready for it.”
Meanwhile, Senong stated he was expecting a physical battle from his first Group B opponents, however added that his primary objective is to fight to win all of his Group B matches.
“Mauritius is a good side,” Senong said. “They have kept the same bulk of players from their U17 from the last two years. They are also very aggressive as well. With that said, we know that a team that is to progress into the next round of this competition, needs to win all of the Group B matches to be safe. And we have every intention to do just that.”