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Diamond Zebras targets AFCON qualification

KABELO BORANABI
The Diamond Zebras are fired up as they target glory at Under-17 COSAFA Championships to be held in Mauritius from next week.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, the BFA chief executive officer, Mfolo Mfolo said the team has a perfect chance of winning the tournament as they are pitted in an ‘easy’ group that has the host, Namibia and Seychelles but reminded the squad that the majority of the job remains on their shoulders. 

“We have done an assessment of the group you have been placed in. The group is not relatively strong and if you can apply the technical expertise that you have been given by the technical team, the breakthrough is there. The tournament is very important, as it is a passage to the FIFA World Cup qualifications,” he said.

 

“You have to respect the badge and the colours of the national team. If you do, that’s motivation enough. We hope that you will proceed to the knockout stage. If you do that is everybody’s game, you will be having the momentum to carry you all the way to the final.” 

 

Mfolo, however, said the regular challenge of balancing between academic activities and football, persisted.  

The team’s preparation for the tournament was rather unimpressive, as they have not tasted victory in the four friendly games played earlier this week. 

They played to two 1-1 draws against Kingdom of eSwatini while they lost 1-0 and 3-2 to their

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Lesotho counterparts. However, the team’s coach, Itumeleng Duiker remains optimistic that the team would put up an impressive display at the tournament. 

“We started out with 60 players but we trimmed down to the required number. We have been in camp for the past two weeks and we have done very well. Everyone has put up their heads out there, and with the help of the senior national team coach (David Bright) and TD (technical director, Serame Letsoaka) we were able to come up with a very good team,” he said.  

In the last edition of the tournament, the Diamond Zebras were knocked out of the competition in the group stages after they finished third with three points behind Mauritius and Zambia. 

Duiker’s side will begin their campaign against Mauritius next week Thursday, before taking on Seychelles two days later. They finish their group stage matches against western neighbours, Namibia on July 24. 

The winner of the group stage will advance to the semifinals, where the eventual winner of the tournament will secure a spot at the Under-17 AFCON scheduled for Tanzania next year. The Diamond Zebras reached the finals of the AFCON in 2013 under the tutelage of Kaizer Kobedi. 

The team will leave tomorrow morning and are expected to arrive in Mauritius on Friday.



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