bravo amajita

Sowetan Reporters

Sowetan Reporters

Hail Amajita! South Africa's under-20 squad are through to the Fifa World Championship finals after pipping perennial conquerors Nigeria 2-1 in the African version of the international event in Kigali, Rwanda, yesterday.

This remarkable victory in the African Youth Championships also booked Serame "Rhee" Letsoaka's young troops a place in the semifinals of the biennial continental showpiece.

The two semifinalists from each group qualify for the world championship. It was first time that a South African national soccer team beat Nigeria in an official game.

Amajita play Egypt in their last group match on Sunday. The World Championship will be held in Egypt in September.

Amajita survived an early scare when - with Nigeria all over them - they conceded a fourth minute penalty when Thulani Hlatshwayo tripped an opponent inside the box. Luckily Nigeria's skipper, Haruda Lukman, missed the penalty

George Maluleka accomplished his mission of scoring against Nigeria when his goal sealed a memorable victor for South Africa. This after he had told Sowetan, on the eve of the encounter, that "I will score for my country in this game, come rain or shine".

Nigeria were the first to break the deadlock after Okeychukwa Uchebo put the west African country in the lead in the 70th minute.

Amajita's defence, marshaled by captain Ramahlwe Mphahlele and assisted by Hlatshwayo and Thabang Matuka, regrouped and denied their opponents a chance to increase their tally.

Goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni was also equal to the task as he kept the Nigerians at bay with some stupendous saves.

Kamohelo Mokotjo, Dylon Claasen and Thulani Serero were able to neutralise their opponents in the midfield. At the same time they delivered good passes to the strikers but the latter failed to convert their chances.

Mandla Masango should have scored more than three goals in the first half but he missed, much to the chagrin of the South Africans.

Striker Phumelele Bhengu played deep and this made it difficult for Amajita to attack. Masango was brought down by Emenike Nkume in the 75th minute. Bhengu level the score from the resultant penalty. Maluleka's solo effort in the 81st minute sealed victory for Amajita.

"We are all excited about this hard-earned victory. It was not easy but we managed to pull it off," said a happy Letsoaka.

"I want to commend the boys for the work well down. They never lost hope after Nigeria's goal. Our work is not yet over as we still have a date with Egypt," he said.

Raymond Hack, Safa's chief executive, also hailed Amajita "for making the country proud in Rwanda".