SERENGETI Boys head coach Bakari Shime was pleased with his side’s spirited show against defending champions Mali in their opening match at the 12th edition of the Africa Youth Cup (AYC) final in Gabon.
The Tanzanian youngsters made their bow at the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations on Monday, settling for a barren draw with holders Mali in their Group B opener at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville. Shime’s lads really gave a good account of themselves to hold the highly rated Malians in their first ever game at the biggest stage.
“I am happy with the boys’ performance against the defending champions. We never gave them space and we held them well despite not scoring goals,” Shime said after the game. “It has been a valuable point collected. 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.” The holders appeared to threaten the Boys with their athleticism especially in the opening half, but Bakari Shime’s youngsters were undeterred and found their rhythm in the second half to take a point from the debut outing in the continental youth finals.
“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.”
Serengeti Boys’ second outing will be against Angola tomorrow, before winding up their group stage campaign against West African side, Niger on May 21. Shime sounded optimistic ahead of tomorrow’s encounter; “We are buoyant ahead of our next game and I am optimistic we will perform.”
Mali coach Jonas Kokou Komla though, on his side, said he hopes that his charges will go for the vital points in their next match against Niger due tomorrow. “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 (40) days of training were not enough and we also missed five high profile build up matches. I will ask my players to play and improve in the next matches,” he said post match.
“We came here with ambitions and one of them is to qualify for the World Cup, and the other is to play till the end of the tournament,” he added.
Angola and Niger, other teams in Group B, shared the spoils as well after playing out a 2-2 draw in Monday’s late kick-off at the same venue.
The biennial international youth football tournament organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for players aged 17 and below, will see the top four teams qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.