Thabo Senong reveals the secret to Amajita's success in Niger
Amajita being the first team to arrive in Niger‚ apart from the hosts‚ for the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations was a major factor in their bronze medal at the tournament‚ coach Thabo Senong said on the team’s arrival back in South Africa.
The South African Under-20s arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday afternoon following their run to third place – earned with a penalties third/fourth- place playoff win against Nigeria on Saturday – at the U-20 Afcon in Niger.
In reaching the semifinals Senong steered Amajita to a second successive Fifa U-20 World Cup qualification under his stewardship.
Senong praised Safa for the support given to his team both in a pre-departure training camp‚ and also their early arrival in Niger on January 25‚ nine days ahead of their opener against the hosts‚ which SA drew 1-1.
“Well done to Safa‚ everyone involved and our staff. Because we were the first team to arrive in Niger besides the hosts‚” Senong said.
“Because the objective was to train and adapt. Train and adapt‚ train and adapt – get used to the conditions.
“And when we started our first match [against the hosts]‚ against all odds‚ against the crowd‚ the players felt at home. And that was very important.
“And I told the boys‚ ‘You want to go to the World Cup – don’t lose the first game. Make sure that the worst result is a point. And we will just grow within the Afcon’.
“Because within the tournament they were young‚ they were developing. And they grew with every match‚ and they learned a lot.
“Eighty percent of this team we kept from Amajimbos [the SA U-17s]. So they progressed and they needed to write a story for themselves as the fourth generation of Amajita to qualify for the World Cup.
“ … You look at a country like Brazil – the country is going crazy as they are missing their second U-20 World Cup‚ and they are not happy about that.
“But we should not be comfortable. We should know that now we are going to face tougher teams‚ and we should make sure that we remain in the performance zone.”
SA also drew 0-0 against Nigeria and beat Burundi 1-0 in their other Group A U-20 Afcon matches. They lost 1-0 against Senegal in the semifinals. Mali beat Senegal on penalties in the final.