x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The underdogs tag suits Letsoaka

The South African coach, has promised a few surprises at the Under 20 World Cup as they start their campaign against the UAE tonight.

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT // Serame Letsoaka, the South African coach, has promised a few surprises at the Under 20 World Cup as they start their campaign against the UAE tonight. The Bafana are playing in the tournament for the first time since 1997, when the UAE, the Asian champions, also made their debut. The South Africans have a lot of talent throughout the side, including the likes of skipper Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Phumelele Bhengu and the Holland-based marksman Kermit Erasmus.

They are hoping to start the football carnival early back home in the country that will host the senior World Cup next year. "We are a good side and I don't doubt that," said Letsoaka. "It's always good when we go to these tournaments as the underdogs because we can therefore surprise people. In our team, we have exciting players and they will show the rest of the world what they are capable of." In the other games tonight, hot favourites Brazil will open their campaign against Costa Rica, while in the same Group E Australia will face the Czech Republic. In the absence of Argentina, the defending champions and six-time winners who failed to qualify for Egypt, Brazil are being billed as favourites for their fifth crown.

Their coach Rogerio was part of the Brazilian squad as a player at the 1987 Under 17 and 1989 U20 World Cup, but failed to get a winners' medal. While he is hoping for a happier ending now, his bigger focus is on getting the players ready for the senior side. "Although I didn't win either - and, as a Brazilian, you always want to win - I still remember that U20 tournament with a lot of pride and satisfaction," he told fifa.com. "I learned a lot from it, just as I'm sure my players will.

"It's a good thing for the players to learn because this will be vital if they want to go to the very top. In Brazil, we have many, many talented footballers, but learning to be a team player is what makes those talented footballers truly special." arizvi@thenational.ae