By Nelson Manneh and Yankuba Jallow

The Gambia U-20 national team, the Young Scorpions, closed their first phase of training as preparations continue for the qualifiers of the 2019 U-20 Cup of Nations.

Head Coach Matarr Mboge had invited 25 players to the National Technical Training Centre in Yundum, where they held training over a total of four days. This initial training phase gave Mboge the chance to assess his options and measure the level of the group, it is expected that several foreign-based players will be invited for future engagements.

‘I cannot be any happier with how the training has gone, considering that all these players are coming from different clubs and different environments. For everyone to come together and gel so quickly over a short time is a fantastic sign, because these are some of the major challenges that we face at national team level. Whilst they’ve all made a very positive first impression, it is now up to them to keep their places and we advised them that they need to go back to their clubs and work even harder to make sure that they are back with us. When we re-group we will step up things again and start to trim down the numbers and add those playing abroad to make sure that we have the quality needed to compete against the best in Africa.’

And Mboge is fully aware that he will have some tough decisions to make in the future.

‘I think it’s common knowledge in this country that the talent pool at this level is incredible. And in fairness I’m welcoming the selection headache because it should be that way. It’s going to be very difficult to leave players out but we’ll be getting as much information as possible and monitoring their progress in the coming weeks.’

The Young Scorpions are expected to know their opponents following the draw that is likely to be held at the end of the CHAN 2018 tournament to be held in Morocco. The draw is eagerly awaited as the Young Scorpions will be able to know their path to qualification for the 2019 U-20 Cup of Nations that will be hosted by Niger, who previously hosted the U-17 Cup of Nations back in 2015. Zambia are the current U-20 champions after winning the 2017 tournament that they hosted.

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