31 August 2017 – Stand-in head coach of the South African U20 Men’s National Team, Helman Mkhalele, believes that even though the results did not go their way, it was still a worthwhile exercise.

The Burger King-sponsored Amajita lost 4-0 to Brazil on Wednesday night (30 August 2017) in the first of two matches of the tri-nations tournament played at Saint Georges Park in England.

All four goals came in the second half after the South Africans did well to deny the South Americans in a tightly contested first stanza.

“It was a good game and we knew it was going to be difficult mainly because our boys were playing together for the first time, so they will obviously take time to gel. But they fought very hard, and we had a good tactical plan, which worked for us in the first half. As the game went on the energy levels dropped,” said Mkhalele.

“What also had a huge negative impact was that we made four changes at the same time and the players coming in could not adapt to the intensity of the game. This also affected our tactical plan, which the Brazilians capitlised on it. All in all it was a good effort from the boys as they showed character even though the results were not in our favour.”

The former Bafana Bafana player says Brazil’s tactical acumen was the difference between winning and losing.

“Our players are highly talented individually but don’t have the match intelligence and that was the defining factor. Our boys took more time to think on the ball and that slowed the flow of play, but with the Brazilians the speed of thought was at a high level and their decision-making was quick – which made a huge difference. Their one-touch football was very purposeful,” said Mkhalele.

He adds that it was, however, valuable experience for his boys, most of whom have never played for any national teams – Phillip Lesoma, Keegan Allan, Leo Thethani, Dean Solomons, Tashreeq Matthews, Dylan Poggenpoel, Sibusiso Shabane and Tyrique Bartlett.

“To play against Brazil, who have been in camp for quite some time, was a good experience for the boys. I believe that this will go a long way in building their confidence, and it will also help them to also learn the demands of international football compared to club football. They now have an idea of what is needed to perform at a higher level, I hope they take this as a lesson,” added the former Bafana Bafana winger.

This was also a great learning stint for Mkhalele who is standing in for head coach Thabo Senong who has Bafana Bafana commitments.

“To be honest, I would have also loved to register a win but unfortunately it did not happen, but it was a great outing for me as an individual. I think this is a good stepping-stone. At first I was very scared to lead this national team because now you are no longer representing a club, a few people but you are representing the nation. In the end I decided to run with this assignment so I can also showcase my coaching talent. I really enjoyed myself even though I know there’s a lot to learn,” said Mkhalele.

Amajita face England on Monday, 4 September 2017 at Harrison Park in Leek Town.

Kickoff is at 19h00 local time (20h00 SA time).

Here is the full interview with the coach: