The SA Under-17 team will represent the country at the U-17 Afcon in Morocco next year, after they accomplished their mission by reaching the final of the Cosafa Men’s Under-17 Championship that ends in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
South Africa will face a familiar foe, Zambia, in the decider set for Gelvandale Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The meeting of the regional adversaries comes three days after their clash in the pool stage on Thursday – a game in which Zambia prevailed 1-0 to win the group, while South Africa finished as runners-up.
Angola and Malawi will face off in a bronze match as the curtain-raiser for Sunday’s final.
The tournament was reduced to four teams following the disqualification of Botswana, Comoros Islands, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, who were all sent home after they failed the tournament’s mandatory age eligibility test.
The incident forced the organisers to reschedule a competition that serves as the zonal qualification for the continental championship.
Having won their opening match against Eswatini before the tournament was reset, South Africa got a scare in the rescheduled game against Malawi when their clash ended 2-2 last Sunday.
Amajimbos, however, redeemed themselves with a 2-1 win over Angola.
But it was left to the final group games on Thursday to confirm the hosts’ place in the final.
Despite a 1-0 defeat to Zambia, Amajimbos duly rode on their luck as Malawi thrashed Angola 7-1.
Amajimbos head coach Vela Khumalo said he aware of the favourable result, but didn’t relay the message to his team that despite trailing against Zambia, South Africa would still qualify for Afcon.
“We knew about the [other] result, but we encouraged the boys to keep possession of the ball. It was just a rehearsal...,” said Khumalo.
He described Zambia as a hard-running team, but blamed a temporary lack of concentration by his charges to concede a goal with six minutes remaining.
“It was just a lapse of concentration, but you can only say these are young boys and we need to help them grow and understand the critical moments of the game.”
With the Afcon ticket secured, Khumalo said his team had shifted its focus to ensuring that the Cosafa title remains on our shores.
The coach, however, pointed out that they could only achieve this if his side were to convert the many chances they create.
“I was going to be a bit worried if we were not creating chances, but we are creating them. The only thing eluding us is scoring, but we are going to rectify that.”
“Zambia play a high-tempo game [and] if we don’t bring our A-game we’ll have a problem. However, if we come back well-strategised we’ll come out victorious. The first game was a big test for us,” said a highly confident Khumalo.
(Both matches will play at Gelvandale Stadium)
Angola vs Malawi (10am)
Zambia vs South Africa (3pm)
. You can follow the action live on SuperSport Variety 4 (DStv channel 209), on cosafa.tv, or via cosafa.com