5 December 2019 – For the past two years, the South African U-20 Men’s National Team (Amajita) has lifted the COSAFA U-20 Men’s Championship.
This afternoon (Thursday, 5 December 2019) they begin the defence of their title when they face Mauritius in their first match of the 2019 edition.
Interim head coach Helman Mkhalele has selected a new squad of 20 players – mostly inexperienced at international level.
Eleven of them have never played for the national team. Only six of the 20 have featured for the U-17 Men’s National Team, while another three has represented their country at U-20 level – with one having been to the FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in Poland earlier this year.
But Mkhalele is not fazed.
“I have told the boys that this is their time and we have to uphold the legacy of the previous U-20 squad that won this tournament. I am confident that we have a squad good enough to hold their own, despite their inexperience at this level,” said Mkhalele.
The former Bafana Bafana mentor believes his charges can go all the way and return home victorious.
South Africa has dominated this tournament over the last few years, winning it a record eight times with the first title coming in 2000.
In their first match at the Sunset Stadium in Lusaka this afternoon, they come up against a team they beat 5-0 last year in the same competition.
Amajita have played in 14 matches, winning 12 of those.
“History backs us to do well in this competition, but then again past results don’t matter in tournaments like these, it is about how badly you want it. A lot of teams have improved as they see this competition as a springboard to bigger and better things. This tournament has produced players who are now regulars in their clubs and national teams, and that is the message I have passing on to the players that you never know who could be watching so they have to be focused and make the best of this opportunity,” added Mkhalele.
South Africa and Mauritius go toe to toe at Sunset Stadium in Lusaka, Zambia.
Kickoff is at 15h30.
In the earlier Group B match, Lesotho will take on Madagascar at the same venue, starting at 12h45.
- South Africa have traditionally been one of the powerhouses in the region in Under-20 football
- They have won the competition eight times in all, with their first title coming in 2000
- They also hosted the tournament for 11 consecutive years between 1999 and 2009.
- The regional championship has been played annually for the last three years after having taken a break
- South Africa lifted the trophy on the last two occasions, and also reached the final in 2016 where they lost out to Zambia
- Mauritius will seek to show their potential at this age group level after mixed performances in recent years
- Having taken just a single point from six matches in the two tournaments before the 2016 showpiece event, they came within a whisker of reaching the knockout stages three years ago
- In 2017 they lost all three of their games without scoring a goal
- There was an improved showing in 2018 in a shortened three-team pool as a 5-0 loss to South Africa was followed by a 4-0 victory over Eswatini
- In Botswana in 2011, the side also lost all three of their pool matches, conceding 11 goals and scoring none, and two years later claimed a single point from three games.
COMBINED TEAM RECORDS FROM THE LAST THREE COSAFA UNDER-20 CHAMPIONSHIPS
The table is calculated on the number of wins, then the number of draws and finally goal-difference.