South Africa under 20 coach, Thabo Senong gives us a preview of the under 20 Afcon
Q. Can you please tell us about how your preparations have gone for the upcoming Under 20 African Youth Championship in Zambia?
We have had an intensive preparation camp from the 06th February at our camp base ( Safa technical centre). We called up 28 players in camp and worked more on building and maintaining the fitness levels of the players. We worked more on the organisation of the team in the defensive phase. We played tough friendly matches to assess the tactical and physical readiness of some players. We played friendlies against tough under 20 teams such as Mali and Zambia.
Q. You played quite a few tough friendlies did those matches help you identify areas you need to work on?
The friendlies matches against both Mali and Zambia were quite tough. Both teams have quick and skillful that excell and 1v1 situations. The two teams play at a very high tempo, they are mentally strong and i think they are the favourites to do well at the tournament together with our Amajita team.
Q. The club versus Country issue has been a factor again this time, with some clubs not releasing players on time?
No comment on question 3.
Q. Are club’s no Patriotic enough,or they simply dont understand the importance of these tournaments?
I think clubs dont understand the importance of prepararing and competing in the Caf Junior international tournaments. Zambia had their xamp base in Spain with all their players in camp. Mali as well brought all their players in camp when they camped in Polokwane. Our biggest challenge in Amajita is with clubs releasing the players very late to join our preparation camps.
Q. You quite a lot of experience of playing on the continent for a young coach, due to your role as assistant of the senior national team bafana bafana and the Under 23’s , how crucial is that going to be in helping the boys to cope with pressure to win?
Im very humbled and honoured to been given an opportunity to serve as the assistant of both the under 23 and Bafana bafana. I have learned and contributed a lot in terms assisting this two teams to qualify for important tournaments. Im fully aware of the dynamics and challenges of coaching in this Caf events. The experience will come in handy in order to prepare players mentally, physically and tactically.
Q. Who is part of your technical team and their roles?
6.1 Molefi Ntseki ( Assistant coach)
Opposition analysis and technical assistant.
6.2 Helman Mkhalele ( Assistant coach)
Technical assistant and technical coach for specific individuals.
6.3 Cameron Cox ( Goalkeeper coach)
6.4 Wesley Segner ( Performance Analyst)
Analyses our opponents and us .
6.5 Thabo Maloka ( Sports Scientists)
Manages, improves the physical loading of individuals and the team.
Q. You were recently in Zambia to play a friendly against the host nation, will that help the players to quickly adapt?
Traveling to Zambia before the tournament afforded us an opportunity to allow the team to adapt to the climate, the facilities, the food.
Q. Where will you be based for the group stages, and what are the conditions like?
Out first two matches will be played in Levy Mwanawasa Stadium ( Ndola). The field surface is natural grass, the stadium’s capacity is 49, 800. The stadium is based in Ndola, the 3rd largest city in Zambia with a population of 455, 94. Ndola is the commercial capital city of Zambia and there is an international airport. The city has a humid subteopical hot summer climate. The average high temperatures are 26.8 degrees Celsius.
Q. Takeus through your group, give a profile of your opponents as per your scouting analysis and which teams could pose a danger?
We are drawan in Group B, a very tricky and tough group. SENEGAL , CAMEROON AND SUDAN.
Senegal finished as semi finalisr in the last Fifa under 20 worldcup in 2015. Senegal qualified for this current Caf under 20 by eliminating both Ghana and Tunisia. They posses good atheletic players, they are very effective with their wingplay, strong hard working players with speed. -1-4-3-3 is their common formation.
Cameroon eliminated Zimbabwe and Lybia to qualify for this tournament. They are very strong aerially and they a naturally very aggressive team. They play a 1:-4-4-2 formation with quick skillfull wingers and two forwards.
SUDAN eliminated both Kenya and Nigeria to qualify for this tournament. They rely more on team effort. Hard working team that believes in pressing very high in oppositions half.
Q. The last time our team qualified for the Under 20 world cup was in 2009, can this class of 2017 repeat that feat?
The current Amajita team is very balanced with good talented individuals. It looks good on paper but we still need to play as a single unit in both phases ( defending and attacking) our priority is getting a good result in the first match