It might not have been the result they wanted, but Amajita coach Thabo Senong was pleased with his charges’ fighting spirit in their 1-1 draw with Niger in their opening game at the Under-20 Afcon in Niamey on Saturday.
The South Africans had to bounce from a goal down after Abdoul Amoustapha put the host nation in the lead in the 64th minute. Amajita midfielder Siphesihle Mkhize headed home the equaliser in the 71st minute to see the sides sharing the spoils at the end.
“It was a good game of football for those who came out in their numbers to watch the match. Nobody wants to lose their first match of any tournament and I believe both sides came into this encounter desperate not to be on the receiving end,” said the Amajita coach.
“Niger had better preparations compared to my team. We came into this tournament without having played a single (official) friendly match while they had a couple. We also played without our goalkeeper and captain Khulekani Kubheka who was suspended during our qualifying rounds. With that said, my charges showed a great fighting spirit and I am happy with how they performed.”
With the result, Amajita find themselves joint second on the Group A standings with the host nation, with the group led by Nigeria, who beat Burundi in their opening match.
Senong’s side will now face off against their nemesis Nigeria in their second group stage game today at the same venue. Going into this clash, the Amajita mentor believes he has a very good squad to take on the Nigerians.
“We will look at Nigeria and analyse how they play.
“We still have good players in our squad who are yet to feature … and I believe the team will be ready when we face Nigeria,” he added.
Amajita could really do with a win to boost their chances of qualifying for the Fifa Under-20 World Cup by reaching the Afcon semifinals.