With just over a month before the youth spectacle kicks off in Morocco, the Young Zebras were expected to have already hit their groove but it turns out not, according to coach Kagiso 'Kaizer' Kobedi. Speaking to Mmegi Sport in an interview from Nigeria yesterday, Kobedi said the effectts of starting preparations late have started to show in the team's performance.
The team left for Cote de' Ivoire on February 21 to play four high profile friendly matches, two against the Ivorians, and another two against Nigeria. They lost 4-1 and 3-1 to Cote de' Ivoire before travelling to Nigeria where they lost their first match 3-0 on Saturday. It was, however, Monday's 9-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Super Eaglets that left tongues wagging with commentators wondering if was the start of a downward spiral for a side that mounted some spirited performances en route to qualifying for the tournament.
Kobedi said their opponents were better prepared for the friendly matches hence the results. He said they took a long break after playing in the SCZA Zone VI Games in Zambia last year and only regrouped in camp a few days before leaving for West Africa. "We were not prepared. Some of the players reported to camp a day or two before we departed," he said. He said the inadequate preparations worked against his boys, as they had to play four matches in 10 days,
something that badly exposed their lacking match fitness. For the Nigeria game that they lost 9-0, he said the team ran out of steam in the second half when the Nigerians ran riot, scoring eight goals in under 20 minutes.
"I would not say they played badly throughout these friendlies. We identified certain weaknesses that the technical team believed could be rectified, but for the final game against Nigeria they were completely exhausted.They told me at half time that they were very tired but they had to carry on playing," he said. He added that the team also missed the services of first choice goalkeeper, Keeagile Kgosipula who stayed behind due to personal reasons. Reserve goalkeeper Ezekiel Morake was used for the friendlies. Trusted centre back Thato Kebue also missed the Eaglets matches due to injury.
Asked on whether the recent results are anything to read into as the team goes to Morocco, Kobedi said they might affect the players psychologically as they need to go into the tournament on a high note. He said he was hoping the team would not break from camp until they leave for the tournament so that they can work on their weaknesses. The BFA has in schedule a four-team tournament for the team before they leave for their final preparation camp in Spain just before the tournament. The team is expected to arrive home at 1:00 pm today.