With the World Cup 2014 looming in the not-too-distant future, Gordon Igesund has an exciting crop of young players breaking through. Igesund has already called up Kgosi Ntlhe to the Bafana Bafana squad after good form for the South African U20s and Peterborough United and thus has shown he has faith in young players. With the South African U20 national team catching the attention of a lot of people at the 8 Nations Tournament in Cape Town earlier this year, the following are a few players who’s progression should be closely monitored.
1. Snethemba Ngidi (SuperSport United, attacking midfielder, 19 years old)
Described as a “South American-style player” by the Argentina U20 coach, Ngidi had an excellent 8 Nations Tournament and attracted a lot of attention for his performances. He lacks height and is very slightly built but his energy and explosive pace over 10 yards more than makes up for it. He is excellent in counter-attacks due to his lightning quick feet and almost always wins a 1v1. He also works hard defensively but does have areas to improve on his strength. Still very raw, he is ranked first for the sheer amount of potential he holds. Hopefully, given regular game time against big, physical opponents under quality coaching, he should develop into an exciting player.
2. Keagan Dolly (Ajax Cape Town, attacking midfielder/winger, 19 years old)
Technically outstanding, Keagan’s strengths lie in his passing, first touch and his energy. Not one to hide during games, his movement is excellent, always looking for the ball and space. He has acknowledged his idol growing up was Steven Pienaar and he is not far from the same style, having grown up in the same area and (unbelievably) having played for 3 of the same clubs in South Africa that Pienaar played for.He is comfortable on the left cutting in or as a 10 (as he is used at Ajax). A genuinely left footed player is always a rare commodity in football and he is at the right club for a hungry young player.
3. Thabani Mthembu (Platinum Stars, striker, 18 years old)
The top scorer at the 8 Nations Tournament (beating strikers from Brazil, Argentina, Japan and Ghana) Mthembu has scored consistently for the U20s – almost a goal in every game he has played. He has worked on his strength and physique since making his move to Platinum Stars (choosing them over Ajax Cape Town), however he has only made the matchday squad once this season.
His all-round play has also improved with Mthembu excellent at backing into a centre back and bringing the other attackers into play. He prefers simple passes linking the play before heading towards the box and has the awareness and reactions to be in the right place at the right time to score goals. He is also a good penalty taker. Do not be surprised to see him break into the PSL this season.
Platinum Stars coach Cavin Johnson: “He is a fantastic young talent and someone that we are very excited about. Unfortunately and fortunately for him he has been involved in so many Under-20 camps over the last few months that we have held him back a little bit until we get him in training for us more regularly.
“But I brought him onto the bench for the game against Orlando Pirates on Saturday with the intention of bringing him on for his PSL debut in the second half. But unfortunately we picked up an early red card and the match situation did not allow for that. But it is only a matter of time, he will get his chance. It is about bringing him in slowly and not putting too much pressure on him that could kill his confidence.
“He has only just turned 18 a few months ago so is very young in footballing terms, but he has shown what a good goalscorer he can be at Under-20 level and I see no reason why he can’t transfer that to the PSL in time.”
4. Junior Sibande (University of Pretoria, left back/centre back, 19 years old)
Sibande has completed 90 minutes in all 7 of Tuks’ PSL games this season.
He is a quiet leader at the back for Amajita, striking up a good partnership with Sundowns’ Kwanda Mngonyama. He is also a threat off set pieces, scoring the second goal against Ghana from a corner at the 8 Nations Tournament.
He is not exceptionally quick but is very rarely caught out of position and has that calm quality all good defenders possess.
5. Abbubaker Mobara (Ajax Cape Town, right back, 18 years old)
Still in the U19 group at Ajax, Mobara is being chased by big clubs in Europe – the latest being FC Porto and RC Lens. His agent Rob Moore, who has managed a number of high profile South African footballers (including Steven Pienaar and Benni McCarthy) claims “He’s the best back four talent to come out of South Africa for years”.
His style is similar to a right sided Ashley Cole – technically very strong, good control and dribbling skills, and great recovery pace (essential for a modern fullback against increasingly quicker wingers). He has good build for a fullback, with a very relaxed style on the ball and a good disciplined aggression off it.
His decision making is already very mature, often picking out the best option and making the right call when to push forward or hold his position.
With South Africa lacking in decent all-round fullbacks, Mobara’s potential is very promising for the future.