South African Under-17 coach Molefi Ntseki is looking forward to the start of a new era with the COSAFA Under-17 Championships to be staged in Mauritius from July 22-31.
Ntseki led South Africa at the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile, where they came away with a single point from their three matches, but must start afresh with all of those talents having moved into the Under-20 age-group.
The squad that he selects for Mauritius start the journey to qualify for the African Under-17 Nations Cup in Madagascar next April, which serves as the qualifying tournament for the next World Cup in India in September 2017.
“We are starting with a completely new team of players born after 2000,” Ntseki tells Times Media Digital. “They are players with no international experience or exposure to a tournament situation, and all the demands that come with that from both a physical and tactical point of view.
“That is why this COSAFA tournament in Mauritius is important for us, because it is the start of what we hope will be our journey to the World Cup next year.”
The group that will go to Mauritius has yet to be determined, but after trialing players from SAFA’s Under-17 inter-provincial tournament staged last year, as well as 67 more invited from academies around the country, Ntseki has a squad of 30 from which he will make his final selection for the COSAFA tournament.
He says he has been impressed with the talent on show, but adds it is a huge step-up from here to World Cup standard and they must find a way to bridge that gap quickly.
“Our players are talented, there is no doubt, but what we experienced at the World Cup in Chile is that you need a much higher level of tactical discipline, be it on defence or in attack,” Ntseki says.
South Africa start their Group A campaign at the COSAFA Under-17 Championship in Mauritius with a fixture against Seychelles in Curepipe on July 22. That is followed by further games against Namibia (July 24) and hosts Mauritius (July 26).
The top two sides in each pool advance to the semifinals, with the final to be played on July 31.