Dar es Salaam. The national Under-17 soccer team, Serengeti Boys, can go all the way to lift the 2017 Africa Youth Championship currently underway in Gabon, says the team’s head coach, Bakari Shime.
Shime said yesterday, a day after his boys forced defending champions Mali to a barren draw in their Group B clash in Libreville.
“The result has given us confidence about our ability though we know the journey ahead is not going to be easy,” he said.
“We are going to correct some of the mistakes we noticed, particularly in the first half, and prepare well for our next two matches.”
“Our strategy would surely be different for the next match. We can’t say what the strategy would be against Angola,” he said.
Serengeti Boys, who are making first appearance in the finals of the Africa youth tournament, sounded a warning note to their next opponents on Monday as they played their hearts out in their Group B opener at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville. Shime’s boys really gave a good account of themselves to hold the highly rated Malians in their first ever game at this level.
Goalkeeper Ramadhani Awam was superb in post as the Serengeti Boys snatched a vital point.
Mali were slightly ahead possession-wise but failed to turn their dominance into goals during the match of few chances.
Captain Mohamed Camara inspired his team from the middle but they still lacked the cutting edge upfront. In the end, they had to contend with a point against a resilient Tanzania in the opening match.
A result least expected by Mali coach Jonas Kokou Komla though, he is hoping that his charges will go for the vital points in their next match against Niger tomorrow.
“We are here for the tournament to challenge the champions Mali. It has been a valuable point collected,” the Serengeti Boys coach said.
“I congratulate my players for the job well accomplished. It was a big lesson for my players. We are here to compete.”
“However, I admit we played against a team with quality. My players struggled in the first half but we made some changes in the set up and were stabilized in the second half.”
“The shape of the team was changed as we moved forward in the second half.” He made it clear that their main objective is to do well in Gabon and qualify for the 2017 U17 World Cup finals which will be hosted by India in October.
His Mali counterpart, Jonas Kokou Komla, said: “Nothing has been lost following the result against Tanzania, who had a very good defence.
“However, the result reflects the kind of preparations we had before coming to Gabon. Forty days of training were not enough and we also missed five high profile build up matches.”
“I will ask my players to improve in the next matches. We came here with ambitions and one of them is to qualify for the World Cup.”