Helman Mkhalele believes he has established a core team from his Cosafa Under-20 Cup finalists who will participate in the qualifiers for the Mauritania 2021 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations.
Mkhalele’s Amajita lost 3-0 against hosts Zambia in the Cosafa Under-20 final in Lusaka on Saturday.
They topped group B with a 5-0 win against Mauritius‚ 1-1 draw against Madagascar and 4-0 thrashing of Lesotho. In the semifinals, SA fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2, before beating Madagascar on penalties.
Mkhalele‚ who rebuilt a team that assembled mostly as strangers to each other two weeks before the tournament‚ believes Cosafa was the perfect growing stage for himself as coach and the players before they head to Mauritania in 2021.
“Most of these players that I have identified will form the core of the team‚” the former Bafana Bafana winger said.
“It will also give an opportunity to some of the players who struggled to perform to their maximum ability in this tournament more time to adapt. And to make sure that by the time we play the qualifiers they will be at a level that is required at international level.
“This tournament was a good learning curve for me as a coach and also for the players. We have a number of good players who I believe are inspired by the results we have achieved. So they would want to be in the team.
“But they will also know how important it is for them to work hard at club level. So I would say this tournament helped me to map the way forward, together with my technical team. It also helped the players to have an idea where they are in terms of their individual talents and being aware of what is needed to work on to qualify for selection in the Amajita set-up.”
SuperSport United’s Oswin Apollis‚ who made his Premier Soccer League debut in a 1-1 draw against Stellenbosch FC last month‚ scored the brace against Madagascar that took SA to the final‚ and four goals in the tournament. Sinenjongo Mkiva of Bidvest Wits scored three goals.
The Cosafa Under-20 Cup was Mkhalele’s first assignment as Amajita head coach‚ replacing Thabo Senong‚ who he had previously assisted. Senong now is head coach of Lesotho’s senior team.