Helman Mkhalele disappointed after SA soundly thumped by Zambia in final

15 December 2019 - 13:51
By Nick Said
The SA Under-20 squad during a team photo.
Image: Safa.net The SA Under-20 squad during a team photo.

Coach Helman Mkhalele was disappointed with a losing effort from South Africa in the final of the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship‚ but says the tournament was invaluable in helping build his team for the continental finals in 2021.

South Africa selected a young group for the competition with an eye on them being eligible for the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations in Mauritania in two years’ time‚ and were soundly beaten 3-0 in the COSAFA decider by hosts Zambia on Saturday.

Having won the competition in the previous two years‚ it means South Africa relinquish their title‚ but Mkhalele maintains it has been a worthwhile experience.

“The tournament was great in terms of tracking the talent. We have identified a few players that we brought into our new team‚” he said.

“They responded very well to the demands of the tournament and I’m very proud of the boys‚ even though we did not get the result we wished for [in the final].”

The next COSAFA Under-20 Championship will now serve as the qualifier from the Southern African region for the continental finals‚ and Mkhalele believes this showing will stand them in good stead in 12 months’ time.

“In terms of their growth as individuals‚ we have assembled a team that will be ready for the COSAFA in 2020 and will be a very strong team‚ and in a better position to compete and qualify for the Afcon in Mauritania in 2021.”

He does admit disappointment that his team could not go all the way though‚ saying they missed chances in the final to put Zambia under pressure.

“I am disappointed because we believed we could retain the trophy. Obviously the more you take your chances‚ the better your chance of winning. Zambia took theirs‚ we did not.

“With coach Thabo [Senong]‚ he was able to win it in successive years‚ I was hoping to continue. Things were not to be‚ but I am very proud of my boys in reaching the final‚ it will go a long way in their development.

“We are determined to build stronger teams that can go out and compete with the west African countries. This is a great tournament as it gave me a clear indication of the type of players I will need to prepare for the Under-20 Cup of Nations.”