Downs U-15s ready for Kevin de Bruyne tournament

Mamelodi Sundowns Under-15 players will be aiming to showcase their talent and skill in their debut appearance at this year’s edition of the prestigious KDB Cup, a tournament that has rapidly gained recognition as one of the finest youth competitions worldwide.

Guided by the experienced coaching trio of Simon Blangwe, Lunga Nobela and Tshepo Makgata, the young Brazilians, who have the distinction of being the first African team to participate in the tournament, touched down in Brussels earlier this week ahead of the tournament, which begins on Saturday, June 10.

Back for its sixth year, the 2023 edition sees Mamelodi Sundowns and Palmeiras from Brazil competing as the first-ever non-European sides. The young Brazilians find themselves in a tantalizing Group 1, competing against defending champions and two-time winners Barcelona from Spain and Manchester City from England.

Group 2 features a tough lineup of Bayern Munich from Germany, Palmeiras from Brazil and Odense from Denmark.

Group 3 showcases the talents of RB Leipzig from Germany, PSG from France and Club Brugge from Belgium.

Lastly, Group 4 consists of renowned teams such as Real Madrid from Spain, Ajax from the Netherlands and KAA Gent from Belgium.

As part of their preparations, the youngsters played to a 1-1 draw against Belgium’s Royal Union St Gilloise Under-16 team on Wednesday. However, what pleased coach Blangwe the most was the opportunity to gain much-needed match experience and valuable training before the upcoming tournament.

“I am happy that we were able to secure a friendly match as part of our tournament preparation. We faced a team that recently finished second in their local league. They proved to be a very physical opponent with a solid defensive structure and were well-coached. Despite the draw, I believe that we gained valuable experience and showed our competitiveness on the field. Based on the lessons gained today, I am confident in our chances on Saturday when we play against Barcelona,” coach Blangwe stated.

Coach Lunga also believes that the game provided a glimpse of what to expect from European sides in the competition.

“This friendly match was instrumental in calming the nerves of our boys as it helped us understand the nature of some of the opponents we will be facing. We displayed good confidence on the ball and our ball rotation was excellent. Our transitions were spot on and it was just unfortunate that we didn’t secure the win. The boys understand that we are not here on holidays but rather to compete and fight for positive results in this competition,” said Coach Nobela.

The reputation of the KDB Cup speaks for itself, as demonstrated by the impressive list of past participants. Prominent names such as Jamal Musiala, Charles de Ketelaere and Eric Garcia have graced the tournament. The current Golden Boy award winner and Barcelona and Spain star, Gavi, is another testament to the calibre of players who have emerged from the KDB Cup. –

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