Tanzania will be making a debut appearance at the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations at the 12th edition from 14-28 May 2017 in Gabon. The ‘Serengeti Boys’ replaced Congo after the latter was disqualified on technical reasons after failing to subject one of their players for an MRI test following a protest by the former.

Bakari Shime is the head coach of the Tanzanians, and he tells they are poised to make a huge impact in their first attempt at the eight-team tournament. The ‘Serengeti Boys’ are currently on a training tour of Morocco, where there are due to face host Gabon in two test matches.

After, they play fellow finalists Cameroon before emplaning for Gabon where they are housed in Group B alongside holders Mali, Niger and Angola. Below are excerpts of Shime’s interview with; How did you achieve qualification to your maiden U-17 Africa Cup of Nations?

Bakari Shime: It did not come overnight. We have been working for the past two years trying to bring real talents to the squad. We went to almost every part of the country and in the end managed to gather all potential talents. We started to build the confidence of the players before working on their tactical and technical abilities. That’s why we are capable of winning anywhere because the confidence of the players is high.

What targets have you set going into Tanzania’s first outing in the continental championship?

We have to work harder because all eight teams in the tournament will be tough nuts to crack. Our target is to finish among the top four and qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is an objective the technical team and players are looking forward to. We are aware it’s a huge task, but achievable. Even if we don’t reach the final, the World Cup slot will compensate for that.

Tanzania has shown promise in friendly matches in the buildup to the tournament. What does this mean going into the final tournament?

I can it is positive for the team. If you have a team that can score, it means that you need to improve your defense as well to win games. If you score two goals and concede none, you win the game. I am happy that the striking force looks fine and lethal.

We are fine-tuning our defensive lapses in the friendly matches and the training camp in Morocco will also serve the same purpose. Also, we hope to improve on the tactical and technical aspect of our game. The fitness level of the players is good and that’s positive for our ambitions.

What is the assessment of your team?

There are slight differences in the qualities of the team. Each member of the squad is a good player. Even the substitutes always make an impact in the game. We can make changes at any time and it does not affect the performance of the team.

How do you fancy your chances in Group B with holders Mali, Angola and Niger?

Our opponents are more experienced and know how to battle for the title in such competitions. We are inexperienced, but we have faith in our team. We will play as underdogs, with big ambitions. We will fight until it’s over because the spirit is there.

Source: Confederation Africaine de Football

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