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Amajita prepare for tough assignment against Senegal

11 February 2019 - 16:50 By Nick Said
SA Under-20 head coach Thabo Senong (R) and his assistant Helman Mkhalele (L) are looking to steer Amajita to victory.
SA Under-20 head coach Thabo Senong (R) and his assistant Helman Mkhalele (L) are looking to steer Amajita to victory.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Amajita must put behind them a poor recent record in African Under-20 Championship semifinals when they take on powerful Senegal in their Last 4 clash in Niamey on Wednesday night.

Coach Thabo Senong’s side won through to the knockout stages with a win and two draws in Pool A‚ and in doing so booked a berth at the 2019 Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Poland in May.

But their toughest assignment is still to come against the Senegalese‚ who won all three of their pool matches‚ scoring nine goals in the process.

And having exited at this stage on their last two visits to the semifinals‚ history is not on Amajita’s side.

They lost 4-3 to Ghana in a thriller in the 2009 semifinals‚ though they did come up against a team of future Black Stars in the likes of André Ayew‚ Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu‚ Samuel Inkoom and Jonathan Mensah.

They reached the semifinals again in 2017 but were beaten 1-0 by hosts Zambia‚ undone by a single goal from Edward Chilufya.

Amajita midfielder Luke le Roux knows the size of the job at hand on Wednesday‚ but feels that with the preparation of Senong and his technical team‚ they stand a good chance.

“It is not going to be an easy game for either side‚” the 18-year-old SuperSport United star said.

“However‚ we have studied our opponents and we know what to expect from them.

“The technical staff has been exceptional in preparing this team‚ and we are ready for Wednesday’s match.

“Now that we have completed the first mission of qualifying [for the World Cup]‚ we want to go all the way and see where we end up. Who knows‚ we may just bring back the gold. It would be a great achievement.”

Most of Senegal’s squad are home-based‚ though they do have promising Fortuna Sittard Amadou Ciss‚ and Youssouph Mamadou Badji‚ who heads the tournament scoring charts with three goals.

South Africa have tasted the semifinal final before when they beat Ghana 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 1997 with a side that included Benni McCarthy‚ Matthew Booth‚ David Kannemeyer and Stanton Fredericks.

They would go on to lose the final 1-0 to hosts Morocco.