The South African Football Association (SAFA) is slowly reaping the benefits of the Vision 2022 Strategy.
Eight players in the current Burger King-sponsored Amajita squad were part of the South African U17 Men’s National Team (Amajimbos) that participated in the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile. These are Sanele Tshabalala, Mondli Mpoto, Khulekani Kubheka, Thendo Mukumela, Reeve Frosler, Wiseman Meyiwa, Sibongakonke Mbatha and Kobamelo Kodisang.
Six of them played against Costa Rica in an international friendly match on Monday (15 May 2017), which South Africa won 2-1.
Among them is Mukumela who is delighted with the team’s performance. He believes they have grown as a team since the Chile tournament.
“We played very well against Costa Rica, however we need to avoid making the same mistakes we made in 2015. We lost 2-1 in our opening match against them in Chile – we conceded a replica goal again yesterday but managed to regroup and come back stronger,” said Mukumela.
The defender, who has been capped 36 times over a period of four years says experience will count when they take on Japan in Group D on Sunday, 21 May 2017 in their opening match of the tournament.
“This will be the second World Cup for about eight of us (players). We have been there before and are humbled by the fact that we have the opportunity to once again represent our country at the biggest football tournament. This time around we will not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the World Cup,” added Mukumela.
“In all honesty, in 2015 we were intimidated by the big stage we were at and made silly mistakes in our matches, which saw us exit the tournament in the group stages.
“Now we know what we need to do to progress to the next round; we know our strengths and are working on our weaknesses. We have a very strong squad and our technical and management teams are very experienced because they have walked this journey with us.”
Molefi Ntseki led Amajimbos as the head coach in Chile and is now one of the assistant coaches in the Amajita squad.
The South Africans have already set up camp in Suwon, Korea Republic to continue preparations for the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup, which gets underway on Saturday, 20 May.
Amajita will take on Japan, Uruguay and Italy on 21, 24 and 27 May respectively, and will be hoping to progress beyond the round of 16 – which will be South Africa’s best ever performance at a FIFA World Cup.
The 2009 U20 World Cup squad was knocked out 2-1 by Ghana in the round of 16.