Road to 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games begins for SA

Nkosingiphile Ngcobo of South Africa tackled by Relebohile Mabone of Lesotho during the 2016 Cosafa U20 Youth Championship match between South Africa and Lesotho at Moruleng Stadium, Rusternburg South Africa on 07 December 2016.
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo of South Africa tackled by Relebohile Mabone of Lesotho during the 2016 Cosafa U20 Youth Championship match between South Africa and Lesotho at Moruleng Stadium, Rusternburg South Africa on 07 December 2016.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

South Africa’s build-up to the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games begins this week at the start of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships that will be staged in Zambia from Wednesday.

Amajita have been drawn in a tricky Group B at the regional finals that also includes North African guest nation Egypt‚ Mozambique and Mauritius‚ and have a new generation of young stars hoping to work their way up the age-group levels with the national teams.

These include Orlando Pirates forward Lyle Foster‚ Mamelodi Sundowns defender Thendo Mukumela‚ Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and highly-rated Ajax Cape Town defender Kiyaam Bull.

Most of the squad are aged 18 or younger‚ including the ‘baby’ of the group‚ Alex Black Aces defender Brad Cross‚ who is only 16.

Coach Thabo Senong has had most of the players for a couple of weeks and told SAFA media that it was tough to choose the final 20 to participate in Zambia.

“We have had a great camp and believe we have selected a balanced yet attractive team‚” he said.

“The technical staff deliberated throughout the weekend on a few players and this was a healthy headache to have as we did final assessments.

“We are looking forward to a great tournament where we will be facing oppositions with different styles of play.

"Mauritius play long balls‚ while the Mozambicans like to keep it on the ground and of course‚ the Egyptians are known for the counterattacks and aggressive play.

“We believe we have a good team‚ but have no intention of putting pressure on the players because we are working on a bigger objective.

“We want to be able to give all 20 players a run during the tournament and we will emphasize to them on a daily basis that they must enjoy the challenge at hand.”

Amajita open their campaign on Thursday against the Mauritians‚ before games against Mozambique (Saturday) and a potential pool decider versus Egypt next Tuesday.

Only the top team in each pool‚ as well as the best runner-up‚ advance to the semifinals.

Senong will be using the tournament to groom his players for the 2019 African Youth Champions in Niger‚ which will be used as the next qualifiers for the Under-20 World Cup later that year‚ with FIFA still to announce the host of that competition.

It is possible too that the core of this side could also compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo if South Africa qualify.

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