21 September 2009
The 2009 Fifa Under-20 World Cup kicks off in Egypt on Thursday, and in-form playmaker Mandla Masango believes South Africa’s youngster are capable of pulling off an upset or two. “One thing’s for sure, we are going there to compete, we are going to give it our all,” Masango told Fifa.com last week.
“We are aware that it’s not going to be easy, but we are determined to succeed, and that is what matters,” Masango said.
Impressive in Rwanda
With an attack-conscious defence and an inventive midfield, South Africa’s biggest flaw is their blunt spearhead. Still, they did enough to upset Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria at the CAF African Youth Championship in Rwanda at the beginning of the year, and ran eventual champions Ghana close in a memorable semi-final.
“We are a good side, we have a lot of talented players and I think we can cause some upsets during the tournament,” Masango continued. “For most of us, this is going to be new experience, but we are looking forward to it. We want to learn a lot and achieve as much as possible.”
South Africa have lost back-to-back matches in preparation for Egypt 2009, but coach Serame Letsoaka is quick to point out that results are not the priority in the tournament build-up. “We wanted to test new combinations, we have some new faces in the team and we had to give them a run,” Letsoaka said.
“I think it will be naive for anyone to judge our capability based on our friendly matches. We are going to Egypt to compete and people will see that.”
Players in form
What might be comforting for the South African coach is the return to top form of some of his most trusted youngsters. Masango has been a revelation at Kaizer Chiefs this season, and is seemingly enjoying his new role on the right flank. Thulani Serero has also been in fine form for Ajax Cape Town.
For a while now, forward Kermit Erasmus has been hailed as the country’s next great number nine. Now on loan at Excelsior from fellow Dutch side Feyenoord, Erasmus is one of the most potent weapons at Letsoaka’s disposal.
If he can rediscover the form that drew comparisons with Benni McCarthy at his best, maybe South Africa can realise their ambitious goals on Egyptian soil.