Amajimbos coach Molefi Ntseki mindful of raised stakes for COSAFA Under-17 Championships
Posted: 27 June 2018 Time: 12:00
South Africa U-17 coach Molefi Ntseki is mindful of managing the pressure on his charges heading into the crucial COSAFA Under-17 Championships, taking place in Mauritius from July 19-29.
The winner of the tournament will earn a spot at the African U-17 Championships in Tanzania next year, which in turn will serve as a qualifier for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.
Amajimbos, who will assemble on Tuesday, will open their COSAFA U-17 Championships campaign against Lesotho on July 20, having been paired with their neighbours in Group B alongside defending champions Zambia and Mozambique.
Group A contains the hosts Mauritius, Botswana, 2016 champions Namibia and Seychelles, while Group C comprises Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi and Swaziland.
“The COSAFA U-17 Championships is crucial this year and the boys will know that every match they play will be very important,” Ntseki said.
“We have to win to qualify for the African U-17 Championships in Tanzania and that will add pressure for the team, which is something we will work on prior to the tournament.”
Ntseki will use many of the same players that were in the team that finished fourth at the regional competition last year.
“Probably around 70 percent of the boys that we took to the competition in 2017 will be there again this year. But we have been to every corner of South Africa looking to discover fresh talent and we have identified new players that will be coming in from across the country.”
Ntseki is planning an intensive camp.
“We have to work on the players as individuals and as a team. Remember, these players have also recently been writing mid-year exams, so they have not really been training as they would normally.
“So, we need to work on the fitness aspect, but also do a lot of work tactically in a short space of time. You are talking about boys that are 16 years old or younger, so it maybe takes a little bit longer than you would normally expect.
“But a key aspect for us will be to prepare them mentally for the tournament because there will be pressure given that this is a continental qualifier as well. We need to take that into account and the impact of that pressure on them.
“Every game they play will be important if we are to achieve our goal, which is not just to win the COSAFA Under-17 Championships, but also to qualify for the continental finals.
“We will have to be ready for what is a very competitive competition with very good teams.”
The three group winners and best-placed runner-up at the COSAFA U-17 Championships, determined first by the number of points obtained, advance from the group stages to the semi-finals.