The South African national Under-23 soccer coach Shakes Mashaba has made three forced changes to the team that will face Iran in an international friendly match next Monday (11 October).
Goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni of Kaizer Chiefs has been replaced by Shane Lottering of Moroka Swallows; defender Gladwin Shitolo of Jomo Cosmos and Belgium based midfielder Daylon Claasen of Lierse have been replaced by Lucky Baloyi of Kaizer Chiefs and┬á Sibusiso Khumalo of Mamelodi Sundowns respectively.
Coach Mashaba subjected the team to an intense preparation considering the short duration of the camp. The team assembled on Monday in Johannesburg and they depart for Iran on Thursday evening, where they will play against their Iranian counterparts at Tehran, the Capital City.
Coach Mashaba says the camp was too short but that a lot of ground was covered with a variety of training sessions; ÔÇ£we are working on a bigger challenge of preparing a formidable team for two major competitions of National and International importance, the All Africa Games and the Olympics. I can’t overemphasise the importance of good preparation when you have such a mammoth assignment ahead of you, the upcoming match against Iran is an opportunity to expose our players to the challenges of playing away from home, and enable them to gain the necessary international experience.
Despite the team encountering setbacks due to injuries, Mashaba is satisfied with the camp so far.
ÔÇ£The camp has been good so far apart from the injuries encountered, we could not train on Monday because we did not have enough players but Tuesday was much better as we had about 17 players. We have played five matches so far and won all of them so I don’t think this upcoming match should be an exception,ÔÇØ said Mashaba.
The coach says the road to London 2012 Olympics is well within the technical team’s plan; they are currently scouting players born in January 1989.
ÔÇ£Of course we are looking at 2012 regarding our current players’ ages, for an example we have Enrico Adolph from Bidvest Wits who is only 18 and should be around for a while and that helps us as well because we get to spend more time with these players and they will get used to our way of doing things,ÔÇØ added the coach.
Mashaba also says the team and the general public should be careful as the going will get tougher as the tournaments (2011 All Africa Games and 2012 Olympics) get closer and that the team should not only physically prepare for these tournaments but mentally as well.