The South Africans headed to the Korea showpiece with plenty of promise after their fourth-placed finish at the U20 AFCON finals earlier this year but failed to replicate the same form as they finished bottom of Group D.
This, after losing to Japan and Italy in their opening two matches, before earning their first and only point of the tournament following the goalless draw against Uruguay on Sunday.
However, Senong, who arrived back in South Africa with the rest of the squad today, believes there were plenty of positives to take from their trip to Asia.
“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,” Senong said via an official SAFA statement.
“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 kinds 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 its 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. ”