Amajita get favourable draw in Under-20 Afcon

SA Under-20 striker Lyle Foster celebrates with teammates after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over hosts Zambia in Kitwe to reach the Cosafa Under-20 Championship.
SA Under-20 striker Lyle Foster celebrates with teammates after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over hosts Zambia in Kitwe to reach the Cosafa Under-20 Championship.
Image: Safa.net/Twitter

South Africa have been handed what looks on paper a gentle draw for the 2019 African Under-20 Championships in Niger in February.

The continental championships will serve as the qualifiers for the Fifa Under-20 World Cup later in the year‚ with the four semifinalists in Niger headed to Poland in May-June.

Amajita will feel they have a good shot in a Group A that contains nemesis Nigeria‚ but also lesser sides Niger and Burundi.

Niger are appearing at the tournament for the first time and only qualified as hosts‚ while Burundi have not been to the continental championships since they reached the final in 1995.

While neither side will be easy‚ they are a better proposition than any of the teams in Group B – Senegal‚ Mali‚ Burkina Faso and Ghana.

That is a Group of Death where any of the four sides will consider themselves genuine title contenders‚ let alone favourites for the semifinals.

Amajita are basking in their success at the 2018 Cosafa Under-20 Championships in Zambia‚ where they retained their title on Thursday by beating a strong Zimbabwe on penalties in the final.

“It was an incredible victory because we were playing against a very tough side‚” Senong said of the Zimbabwe win.

“We made a mistake [for the Zimbabwe goal] so that meant time was against us. We needed to work harder‚ make tactical switches and be more direct to get an equaliser.

“The standard of the tournament has improved‚ teams scouted their players better and their preparation was improved.”

Senong admitted that SA will have a much sterner challenge in Niger‚ though‚ especially with the conditions‚ and is hopeful that Premier Soccer League clubs will release all eligible players for the competition.

“When we talk about the Afcon‚ when you look at what we have achieved in this tournament [the Cosafa] you could say that we are at 80 percent. But we still need to go and play some friendlies with some tough West African teams‚” he said.

“The conditions are very different‚ it’s very hot and how will the players handle that?

“We still need support from our clubs because we had five players that are currently playing in the PSL not with us because it is in season. If we get come cooperation from back home‚ we can be stronger and tougher.”

Amajita will be appearing at an eighth Under-20 Afcon with their best finish a silver medal in 1997. They also finished fourth in 2009 and the last time the tournament was staged in 2017.

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