Head coach of the South African Under-20 national team, Thabo Senong, has named the 21-man squad that will represent South Africa at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
The tournament takes place from 20 May to 11 June in South Korea.
Senong has kept the bulk of the squad that went to the African Under-20 Championships in Zambia where South Africa finished fourth earlier this year.
Only four players of the 21-man squad were not at the tournament – defenders Malebogo Modise and Shane Saralina, as well as midfielders Thabo Cele and Masilake Phohlongo.
Senong has called up only three players from overseas – Cele, Luther Singh and Liam Jordan (all from Portugal).
Seven of the players in the current Under-20 squad were part of the South African Under-17 Men’s National Team (Amajimbos) that took part in the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Chile – Sanele Tshabalala, Mondli Mpoto, Khulekani Kubheka, Thendo Mukumela, Reeve Frosler, Wiseman Meyiwa, Sibongakonke Mbatha and Kobamelo Kodisang.
“We are humbled to represent our country in the greatest showpiece in the world. We wish to thank the clubs for releasing players in the preparation phase. I believe we have selected a balanced team of players that suit our game model and philosophy. Competing in the World Cup event will be demanding physically and mentally,” said Senong.
“Our players possess good technique with an excellent tactical application. We are drawn against tough teams in our group. With good team ethics and hard work, I believe that we can surprise our opponents. I have great faith in this group of players that we can really make this a memorable World Cup tournament.”
South Africa will be based in Suwon, a city traditionally known as ‘The City of Filial Piety.’
Twenty-four teams from six confederations will participate in the 21st Edition of the Junior World Cup, which will be spread across six different venues.
Amajita’s first match at the tournament will be against Japan on Sunday, 21 May at Suwon World Cup Stadium. Kickoff is at 17h00 local time in South Korea (10h00 SA Time – Korea Republic is seven hours ahead of South Africa)
The next clash sees them square off against Italy at the same venue three days later (Wednesday, 24 May) with a 13h00 SA time kickoff (20h00 local time).
For their third and final group stage match, the South Africans will move to Incheon to take on South Americans, Uruguay on Saturday, 27 May at Incheon Football Stadium, also at 13h00 SA time.
This is the third time South Africa has qualified for the FIFA u20 World Cup – the first time was back in 1997, led by former Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba and were knocked out in the group stages.
The squad made its return to the soccer showpiece in 2009 with head coach Serame Letsoaka – they made the last 16 but lost out 2-1 to Ghana after extra time.
SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan added his support for the squad
“Due to CAF and FIFA commitments I am unable to join you for this big day when the final squad going to the FIFA World Cup is announced. But go out there and do your best. You are fortunate to be going to a huge tournament; it will make you grow as professional players – the future of South African football is very bright,” said Dr Jordaan.
“This is your chance to write your names in the history books. Some of you have played in the u17 World Cup, now you are going to the u20 World Cup, next will be the 2020 Olympics and by the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, you will have a lot of experience and wont go there to make up the numbers. This can only indicate that SAFA’s Vision 2022 is alive and well. All the best in South Korea, go and make us proud.”
Amajita have just returned from a training camp in Europe where they played three practice matches – against VFL Bochum of Germany, a Select Ajax Amsterdam squad as well as PEC Zwolle.
The South Africans depart for South Korea on Wednesday, 10 May.
They have lined up an international friendly match against Costa Rica on Monday, 15 May at Incheon Stadium.
1. Sanele Tshabalala (Bidvest Wits FC)
3. Mondli Mpoto (Supersport United FC)
4. Khulekani Kubheka (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)
4. Malebogo Modise (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)
5. Thendo Mukumela (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)
6. Tercious Malepe (Orlando Pirates FC)
7. Shane Saralina (Ajax Cape Town FC)
8. Sandile Mthethwa (Orlando Pirates FC)
9. Reeve Frosler (Bidvest Wits FC)
10. Sipho Mbule (Supersport United FC)
11. Wiseman Meyiwa (Kaizer Chiefs FC)
12. Sibongakonke Mbatha (Bidvest Wits FC)
13. Kobamelo Kodisang (Platinum Stars FC)
14. Luther Singh (Sporting Braga)
15. Grant Margeman (Ajax Cape Town FC)
16. Thabo Cele (Benfica FC)
17. Teboho Mokoena (Supersport United FC)
18. Masilakhe Phohlongo (Ajax Cape Town FC)
19. Phakamani Mahlambi (Bidvest Wits FC)
20. Liam Jordan (Sporting Lisbon FC)
21 Keletso Makgalwa (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)