Last year’s losing finalists Atlantic Nacional FC are on a mission to do one better at this year’s Engen under-17 Knockout Challenge, which kicks off on Friday July 15 and ends Sunday July 17, at Parow Park, in Parow.
This was after the Table View-based side lost 3-1 against Ajax Cape Town, last year.
Coach Keith Paulse and his side will have their work cut out as they were drawn in Group A alongside hosts Vasco Da Gama, Milano United and Jordan Callies.
Paulse said the group is not an easy one, but he believes his side can finish on top.
“This is a great group for us, because it will test our character. None of the teams in the competition are easy because all of them qualified just like us. The main goal would be to make it to the semi-finals and from there on anything is possible,” he said.
Atlantic Nacional qualified for this year’s competition after “walking over” Ashley Rovers (who did not pitch up) in May, in Blue Downs. In their final play-off match they faced a stern Masidlale Academy outfit, whom they beat 3-0 on penalties, last month, at the same venue.
Despite only being juniors, they play with a level of maturity and don’t panic under pressure. This was evident in the game against the Nyanga-based Masidlale, as well as their most recent Coke Cup encounter against Maitland-based Saxon Rovers.
Goalkeeper Shamiem Jonas, who usually plays in the outfield, was the difference between the two sides vying for a spot in the under-17 Knockout Challenge, after the shot stopper saved three spot kick penalties as the sides played to a 1-all draw during normal time.
Paulse said the weather conditions played a major role because it rained non-stop but his players made the most of it.
“We never panicked when Masidale scored first. We remained calm and got our reward in the second half when we equalised. Anything is possible when it comes to penalties but I had faith that Shamiem would save a few kicks,” he said.
Paulse believes the under-18 Safa Coca Cola cup has also helped prepare some of his players for the Knockout Challenge after they beat Saxon Rovers 2-1 in the round of 64, at The Greens, in Manenberg, on Sunday.
“It is good experience for players because they play teams from other local football associations. I hope we can make it as far as possible in the Coke Cup competition as well,” he said.