'Our opponents really don’t know how to stop us‚' says SA coach Helman Mkhalele

11 December 2019 - 11:56
By Nick Said
SA Under-23 interim coach Helman Mkhalele talks to his players.
Image: Safa.net SA Under-23 interim coach Helman Mkhalele talks to his players.

Coach Helman Mkhalele has been impressed with the way his new-look South Africa side has gelled as they look forward to a 2019 COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship semifinal with Madagascar on Thursday.

The squad‚ made up almost entirely of new players‚ only got together a week before the start of the tournament‚ but turned in an accomplished display to thump Lesotho 4-0 in their final Group B game on Tuesday and set up a semifinal meeting with the Malagasy.

“These players have only been together for two weeks now‚ but we are starting to see the patterns when we are in possession.

"It is very pleasing‚” former Bafana Bafana winger Mkhalele said.

“Realising how important it was for us to get a win‚ the boys responded well. We stand a strong chance of retaining the trophy."

Goals from the BidVest Wits’ duo of Sinenjongo Mkiva and Lancaster Human‚ and Kaizer Chiefs’ Rahim Milazi and Keletso Sifama‚ set up the big win for South Africa‚ who were also without arguably their star man with SuperSport United’s Oswin Appollis suspended for the clash.

The fact that they are able to score different types of goals and from different sources shows a variety to their game that pleases Mkhalele.

“Our opponents‚ like Madagascar next‚ really don’t know how to stop us and how we will attack. The players don’t rely only on creating scoring opportunities for the strikers‚ it becomes about the whole team and that eases the pressure on the forwards.

“How we created the goals is the most important thing for me – good combination play that is constructive and planned. Having patterns creates more understanding and structured goal-scoring opportunities. That also really pleases me.

“When we scout players‚ it is not only about talent‚ but also character. If an exceptional player like Oswin is not available‚ then those that come in must be able to grab the opportunity with both hands.

“Keletso came in and played his part in giving us another dimension in terms of our attacking strength.”

South Africa and Madagascar played to a 1-1 draw in their Group B meeting on Sunday‚ a game Mkhalele felt his side should have won. He is excited that his side will have the chance to make up for that.

“We knew we should have won that game‚ they [the players] were so disappointed. Now presented with the second chance‚ I believe that the players will welcome the challenge.

“Madagascar are a tactically disciplined team‚ but have very good individual players. The challenge they will being in the game is good for the progress and development of our players.”

The other semifinal on Thursday sees hosts Zambia take on Angola‚ who have looked arguably the strongest side in the competition.

The final is set for Saturday‚ where South Africa will hope to make it a hat-trick of wins after lifting the title in 2017 and 2018.