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Helman Mkhalele pleased at 5-0 win for SA U-20s‚ but knows tougher yet to come

Helman Mkhalele during the Copa Coca Cola Brazil visits to Ocean View on April 25, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Helman Mkhalele during the Copa Coca Cola Brazil visits to Ocean View on April 25, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

South Africa coach Helman Mkhalele was satisfied with his side’s opening 5-0 Group B victory over Mauritius at the 2019 Cosafa Men’s Under-20 Championship‚ but says there will be a far greater challenge looming on Sunday against Madagascar.

Early goals from Sinenjongo Mkiva and Keagan Mitchell‚ and a second-half brace from Oswin Appollis‚ plus a late strike from Athenkosi Mcaba‚ gave the defending champions a winning start to the tournament where they were victors in both 2017 and 2018.

South Africa beat the same opponents by the same scoreline in their opener last year. The U-20s‚ who Mkhalele has taken over from Thabo Senong‚ will hope that is a good omen.

“It was a good result. I believe with this result it will help the boys to settle‚” the Bafana Bafana legend said.

“We were under extreme pressure as the defending champions‚ so everyone was looking to see how we would start in the first game.

“We started well by scoring two quick goals‚ and then did well to make sure we defended in the first 45 minutes. A 2-0 lead‚ once the other team scores‚ it can become difficult to concentrate and maintain the lead.

“Even though we won and managed to score five goals‚ there are some areas we need to work on in relation to maintaining possession with purpose and controlling the middle of the park. We need to work harder.

“When you check on the wings‚ when we attack‚ we are stronger than attacking through the central part. It was not consistent and we need to work on that.”

Mkhalele has brought together a totally new squad from the one that claimed their back-to-back successes in the last few years‚ and says he and his technical team have worked hard to get them to gel with just a week’s worth of preparation.

“In the past week‚ we had made sure we worked hard in building the social relationship between the players as they come from different teams and different coaching styles‚” the coach said.

“It forms the foundation of our building block of building a team that understands our tactical and technical philosophy. I am happy with the response from the boys.

“These boys understand the purpose of wearing the South African jersey. Whenever you play and represent the country‚ opponents always play above themselves.”

Mkhalele was also pleased that the goals were shared around the team‚ from the strikers to midfielders and even defender Mcaba.

“I was happy when different players scored‚ even a defender from a set-play. We want to make sure we cover all the areas in terms of trying to create goal-scoring opportunities.

“We want to make sure we score through open play and set-pieces‚ it is important to have that variety. It takes pressure away from the strikers.

“But we could have scored more goals with the number of chances we created – we need to improve on that.”

South Africa’s next opponents are Madagascar‚ who will be their toughest rivals in the bid for top spot in the pool‚ which would ensure they advance to the next stage. The Malagasy eased past Lesotho 3-0 in their opener.

“Madagascar are one of the strongest teams in the group – their senior national team is doing well and the inspiration has rubbed off on the young team that is here in Zambia.

“We are expecting a tougher‚ quicker and stronger opponent‚ and tactically they will be better than Mauritius. We need to make sure we prepare thoroughly for the game.

“We want to make sure we do not lose‚ to give us the best chance of progressing to the semifinals. Our boys know it will be a hard game.”