22 April 2019 – Head coach of the South African U-20 Men’s National Team, Thabo Senong, is elated that he now has a bigger squad to work with for the World Cup preparations in Saudi Arabia.

Amajita departed for the Middle East country on Friday (19 April) with 21 players from the 26 called up to the training camp.

The South Africans arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday (20 April), following an 11-hour and 45 minutes trip, which involved two connecting flights to the city of Abha.

The latest to report for national team duty are Portugal-based Sphephelo Sithole (Belenenses FC) and Nkanyiso Shinga (Vitoria Setubal FC), as well as Leo Thethani who plies his trade with Ajax Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The trio arrived just in time to be part of selection for Amajita’s international friendly match against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, 23 April, which will take place at the Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Sports City Stadium in Abha, Saudi Arabia.

Kickoff is at 15h15 South African time.

The second encounter between the two nations is scheduled for Friday, 26 April.

Senong now has a total of 24 players in camp.

Due to club commitments, midfielders England-based Khanya Leshabela of Leicester City and Luvuyo Phewa of NFD side Real Kings from Durban, are still to join their compatriots.

Phewa is expected in Abha on Wednesday (24 April) while Leshabela will only be available from Sunday (28 April).

“It is unfortunate that we did not have the players from Day 1, but we have to understand the situation and at the same time thank all the clubs and coaches for assisting us with the release of players. It is not easy but we are glad that we already have 24 players, which is a good number for preparations and once we receive the remaining two, we will be able to plan properly,” said Senong.

“The good thing is that things have gone very well since we left the country and coming here early will give the boys a lot of time to adjust to and focus on the job at hand. Being together for so a period of time helps with team dynamics and we are happy we were able to quickly get together and focus our attention on preparations only and nothing else.”

Both Saudi Arabia and South Africa are using these matches to get ready for the 2019 FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup, set to take place from 23 May to 15 June in Poland.

“Saudi Arabia qualified for the this year’s World Cup after being crowned champions of Asia, so this will be a good mental and physical test for the boys, more so because the hosts have already played a few warm up matches against the likes of Mali and Senegal, and that is what we want – to see how far we are with our readiness. We are really looking forward to this challenge,” said Senong.

After the two matches, Amajita will travel to Poland to continue their preparations – they will face Uruguay (15 May) and Ukraine (18 May) in international friendly matches.

Amajita have been drawn in Group F alongside Argentina, Korea Republic and Portugal at the 2019 FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup.

The two top teams in the group will proceed to the knockout stages of the tournament.

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