Head coach of the Burger King-sponsored Amajita, Thabo Senong says they are disappointed by the loss to Japan in their opening match of the 2017 FIFA World Cup against Japan but are not discouraged.
The Asians came from behind to defeat the South Africans 2-1 on Sunday, 21 May in Suwon, Korea Republic.
Grant Margeman scored for Amajita, who are now third in Group D with no points – same as Italy – who lost 1-0 to Uruguay in the other group match.
Japan and Uruguay are level on three points each.
South Africa faces Italy in a crucial clash where a loss for either side could mean the end of the road in the tournament.
“We knew from the start that we were in a tough group – Japan, Champions of Asia; Uruguay, Champions of South America – and they also won their first game yesterday, as well as Italy who are very tough to penetrate,” said Senong.
“So it wont be easy and again we have to work hard to open up the Italians, we have to compete with them in set-pieces and aerial battles, we need to dig deeper to get a positive result. For this mission we need players with intelligence, with big hearts – but I have no doubt in the ability of our team. The mood and atmosphere is still positive in the camp, the boys are still fully focused for the next two matches in our group.”
Amajita had a light training session on Monday, 22 May and will have their final workout on Tuesday, 23 May before taking on the Europeans in the second match of the tournament.
“We needed to refresh them a bit, obviously they are a bit stressed after the loss on Sunday but we have to keep going and make sure they are fresh for the next match. We are in the competition phase now, so it’s always important to deal with the psychological part of the players – we need to motivate them all the time. We are disappointed with the result against Japan but we are not discouraged, we still have six points to fight for,” added Senong.
The Amajita mentor has welcomed into camp two players who joined the squad late due to club commitments.
Bidvest Wits defender Reeve Frosler arrived in Suwon on Saturday (20 May) after helping his team win the PSL title, while Supersport United midfielder Teboho Mokoena landed in the Korea Republic on Monday (22 May) following his club’s qualification for the Nedbank Cup final.
“Frosler is adapting very well. He managed to sleep about six hours, which is good – my biggest concern was that he would not be able to sleep for long as he battles the huge time difference, but he looks ok and is available for selection. I also hope that Teboho, who has just joined us, is also available but we will see how things go with him,” said Senong.
Meanwhile first choice goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto missed training as he had a bout of flu but he is under the watch of the medical team and should be back at training on Tuesday.
Amajita and Italy meet on Wednesday, 24 May 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon.
Kickoff is scheduled for 10h00 South African time (17h00 local time in Suwon).