NATIONAL Under-20 men’s football team manager Patrick Mutesva believes they have enough quality in the squad to win the Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships which get underway in Lesotho this afternoon. The Young Warriors are in Group D with Swaziland and Botswana.
The Jairos Tapera-coached side will begin their campaign with a clash against Swaziland at Maseru Stadium tomorrow at 5pm local time, before engaging western neighbours Botswana on Saturday afternoon at Mafeteng Stadium.
Group leaders after the first two rounds of action will meet the second-placed team in Group B which has Angola, Mozambique and Madagascar in the semis. Runners-up in Group D will meet Group B winners. Mutesva believes they have enough quality to win the group D and go all the way to claim the title which the Young Warriors last won in 2007.
“I think we have one of the best talented squad here and we have no reason to fail,” Mutesva told our sister paper NewsDay Sport from Maseru yesterday.
Leading the hugely talented squad, whose bulk of players are regulars for Premier League teams, is Caps United left-back Ronald Pfumbidzai.
The Motor Action crew of goalkeeper Donovan Bernard, Walter Musona and Wisdom Mutasa are also in Maseru.
Other big name players in the squad are Monomotapa’s skilful midfielder Praise Tonha, national Under-17 captain and Prince Edward student Tinotenda Kadewere and Dynamos’ Michael Maipe. Hwange starlet Pritchard Mphelele and Highlanders’ Mgcini Sibanda will lead the team’s frontline.
“We arrived at round 3pm yesterday (Sunday) and we had our first training session this morning (yesterday) and we hope to have another one in the afternoon. We were well received by the organising committee. We are staying at Victoria Hotel and the standards are okay. We will have two sessions at the match venue tomorrow (today). No injuries in the team so far and the players are all in good spirits. They have promised to give it their best for the country, so we are expecting a very good tournament.”
Tapera is looking beyond this tournament.
“Beyond winning the event, the most important thing for us is the development of these youngsters and guiding them through to the Under-23 side and the senior national team. It is our responsibility to ensure the graduation of these players and this tournament will be an important step. We need to improve their skills and that comes with playing at tournaments like this,” Tapera is quoted as having said on the official tournament website.
The team flew out of Harare on Sunday morning to South Africa before taking a road trip to Maseru.