Zondo casts his eye to 2013

Coach Khabo Zondo said he was hoping the players would be able to perform at a decent level in their opening match against Lesotho on Monday.   “We have travelled for about 30 hours so it’s not ideal to be playing so soon after such a long trip but we will take it into account and try to give a good performance against Lesotho,” he said.   Amajita were surprisingly beaten at home recently by Lesotho in an African Youth Championship qualifier, but bounced back to win the return leg in Maseru, leaving Zondo feeling confident they can get one over their neighbours this time around.   “Those games against Lesotho do not affect my thinking at all. We are now in a tournament and Lesotho are just one of our opponents. We are here to beat everyone we come up against, and our aim is to lift the trophy,” said Zondo.   The tournament offers Zondo the opportunity to blood some newer players into the set-up, with a view to the future, particularly the 2013 African Youth Championship.   With the exception of Philani Kwela, a veteran of the 2007 Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 Championship, the rest of the squad will get their first taste of international competition at this level. “I don’t want to talk about any individuals. Overall, this is a very inexperienced squad, with the average age between 17 and 18 years old. I am working towards 2013 and because the team no longer has the same sponsorship as in previous years, we anticipate fewer preparation matches over the period leading up to the tournament so I cannot afford to use players now that won’t be eligible in two and a half years’ time. That’s why I hope to keep this group together in order for it to mature at the right time.”   Meanwhile, Lesotho coach, Victor Notsi, reiterated Zondo’s assessment of the previous clashes between the sides, saying, “Forget the past, that is gone. We are under no pressure. We’ve played one match already and know that a victory over South Africa will virtually put us into the semifinals, and that is all we are focused on.”   The tournament kicked off on Friday, with Zimbabwe silencing the home crowd with a comprehensive 3-0 win over the hosts in a Group A clash at the University of Botswana. On Saturday, Lesotho and Namibia drew 2-2 in their opening Group B fixture, while Zambia and Angola also finished level at 2-2 in their Group C match. Over in Molopolole, Madagascar thumped the Seychelles 5-0 to take control of Group D.   With Sunday scheduled as a rest day, the competition continues on Monday, with Amajita facing Lesotho in Group B and the Seychelles meeting Mozambique in Lobatse, while in Molopolole, Mauritius play Angola and Botswana play Swaziland, hoping to stay alive to maintain local interest.