Gambia’s U20 coach Mattar M’boge has told The Chronicle that it’s never easy to retain titles at international competitions.
M’boge and his Young Scorpions began their title defense with a draw against Mali at the recently ended WAFU U20 tournament in Guinea, before beating Liberia 1-0 in their second game to advance to the semifinals, were they got knocked out by Senegal through penalties (4-2) after playing out a 2-2 draw at regulation time.
“Every team that played against us raised their game because they wanted our crown, “said Mboge. “We had the pride and pressure of being defending champions and no team was able to beat us over 90 minutes and we played amongst the best teams in Africa including U-20 AFCON champions Mali and runners-up Senegal. “Cameroon weren’t able to defend their 2017 AFCON title, going out in the second round, 2017 U-20 AFCON champions Zambia didn’t even qualify for 2019, the same for 2017 U-17 AFCON champions Mali. Even WAFU 2017 holders Ghana eventually lost their final against Senegal on penalties. So, we are proud to eventually finish third, the boys deserved something for all of their hard work.”
However, The Gambia finished the tournament as Bronze medalists following their penalty shootout win over Sierra Leone.
Gambia’s captain Matarr was for three consecutive times named man of the match and eventually awarded with the most outstanding player of the tournament, a feat that delights coach Mboge. “His leadership skills and tactical knowledge stood out; he tells The Chronicle. “His work-rate was already at a high level but the captaincy seemed to raise his game even further.”
“The boys accepted his style and the way he controls the team. He was well supported by his teammates and covered every blade of grass in our matches, he had 3 man of the match awards but even should have had four. “He’s an intelligent boy, works extremely hard and is mentally strong as well. He reminds me of Michael Essien and is a shorter version of Seyfo Soley. I think everyone can see that he is a future national team player so if he continues to stay hungry and work hard then he will surely get there.”
Asked what’s next for him and the players, M’boge promised to keep on working with the team while he looks for more talents. “We keep working hard on developing these boys. Most of them have graduated from this level and are eligible for the U-23s and of course the senior.”
“The pathway is there for them and some of the players have two medals, a gold and a bronze, from their time with the U-20. “We hope they can take this confidence and some of what we have tried to teach them as they move up the ranks. We will keep scouting the many talented players at this age group and try to build up a strong team for all of our future engagements.”