Cape Town - The SA U20 national team coach Thabo Senong said he was proud of his charges despite an early exit from the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup in South Korea.
The squad arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Monday morning.
Senong said he is disappointed that his side could not proceed to the next round but was proud of his boys.
Amajita managed just one point from their three matches where they lost 2-1 and 2-0 to Japan and Italy respectively but were able to hold Group D log leaders Uruguay to a goalless draw.
“I am still proud of the boys and I believe it was a good experience for all of us. We played tough opponents and were in a very strong group but we learnt a lot in every match. We played well against Japan and against Uruguay, where I think we were not lucky to get a win, but we were not good against Italy,” said Senong upon arrival in Johannesburg.
“I still believe we have a very good team and the future looks bright. The priority is to make sure these boys graduate to the U23 National Team. I also believe a few players can be fast-tracked to the Senior National Team Bafana Bafana.”
The Amajita mentor is happy about the opportunity to expose the boys to a demanding environment.
“The level was higher, the standard was tougher, the competition was very strong and we had to expose our boys to these kind of conditions. But it was not easy as they really wanted to win, they gave their all but the composure in the final third was still not there,” added Senong.
“This was their best way to learn – to see their strengths and their weaknesses but I still believe in them. Their attitude on the field was very positive unfortunately we didn’t proceed to the next round. We need to continue to improve as a nation and as a continent and close the gap between us and the other best footballing nations in the world.”
On the way forward, Senong is adamant that a lot needs to change to get the team to perform to it’s maximum.
“At the moment we are proud that we are always present in CAF and international tournaments but now the next step is to ensure that we compete and go to the next round. This requires a lot of factors and one of them is to ensure that all the players get good game time at a higher level like PSL or NFD, that will help them and fast-track their development. What we learnt is that tactical maturity was lacking, our boys are not exposed to tough competition every weekend and that was the difference between us and our opponents,” said Senong.
“Their players are playing at a higher level but we took a talented group of players with most not playing at a higher level. I am positive that more will be playing in the PSL, or moving abroad to get stiff competition from an early age – you saw how the likes of Reeve Frosler (Bidvest Wits), Grant Margeman (Ajax Cape Town) and Teboho Mokoena (Supersport United) excelled because of the kind of competition they are getting every weekend, hopefully that will happen with the rest of the squad and that will help the national team build an even stronger U23. ”
In three matches, South Africa was the lowest scoring nation in Group D with just one goal to their name, having let in four.
Uruguay completed the group stage without conceding, while Japan had a leaky defence where they were scored five times.
Uruguay and Italy were joined by Japan, who qualified as one of the four best third-placed teams in the last 16 of the tournament.
South Africa’s World Cup in numbers:
12 – Number of players making their World Cup debut (Modise, Mthethwa, Makgalwa, Malepe, Margeman, Cele, Saralina, Mokoena, Jordan, Kammies, Mbule, Phohlongo)
9 – Number of players attending their second World Cup tournament (Mpoto, Meyiwa, Mbatha, Singh, Mukumela, Tshabalala, Kubheka, Frosler, Kodisang)
8 – Number of players who played all three matches (Mpoto, Malepe, Modise, Cele, Margeman, Mbatha, Singh, Makgalwa) 7 – Number of players who played only two matches (Mukumela, Jordan, Mthethwa, Frosler, Meyiwa, Mokoena, Kodisang)
6 – Number of players who played all matches in full (Mpoto, Malepe, Modise, Margeman, Mbatha, Singh)
6 – Number of players who came on as substitutes (Makgalwa, Jordan, Mbule, Phohlongo, Mokoena, Kodisang)
5 – Number of players substituted (Meyiwa, Jordan, Cele, Makgalwa, Phohlongo)
4 – Number of Players who did not play in the tournament (Tshabalala, Saralina, Kammies, Kubheka)
This is how they appeared in the tournament...
SA U20 XI vs Uruguay: Mondli Mpoto (GK); Malebogo Modise; Reeve Frosler; Tercious Malepe (C); Thendo Mukumela; Thabo Cele (Mbule 82’); Grant Margeman; Sibongakonke Mbatha; Masilakhe Phohlongo (Makgalwa 72’); Teboho Mokoena; Luther Singh
Subs: Sanele Tshabalala (GK); Khulekani Khubeka (GK); Shane Saralina; Sergio Kammies; Sandile Mthethwa; Wiseman Meyiwa; Sipho Mbule; Kobamelo Kodisang; Liam Jordan; Keletso Makgalwa
SA U20 XI vs Italy: Mondli Mpoto (GK), Reeve Frosler, Malebogo Modise, Tercious Malepe (c), Sandile Mthethwa, Wiseman Meyiwa (Mokoena 60’), Thabo Cele (Makgalwa 46’), Sibongakonke Mbatha, Grant Margeman, Luther Singh, Liam Jordan (Kodisang 73’)
Subs: Sanele Tshabalala (GK); Khulekani Kubheka (GK); Shane Saralina; Sirgio Kammies; Thendo Mukumela; Sipho Mbule; Kobamelo Kodisang; Masilakhe Phohlongo; Keletso Makgalwa, Teboho Mokoena
SA U20 XI vs Japan: Mondli Mpoto (GK); Malebogo Modise; Thendo Mukumela; Tercious Malepe (C); Sandile Mthethwa; Wiseman Meyiwa (Jordan 75’); Thabo Cele; Luther Singh; Grant Margeman; Sibongakonke Mbatha; Keletso Makgalwa (Kodisang 65’)
Subs: Sanele Tshabalala (GK); Khulekani Kubheka (GK); Shane Saralina; Sirgio Kammies; Reeve Frosler; Sipho Mbule; Kobamelo Kodisang; Masilakhe Phohlongo; Liam Jordan