Rivaldo looks to toughen up in 2016

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Tonight, the 19-year-old anchors the Ajax defence when they host Golden Arrows in a PSL fixture at the Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 8pm). Next month, he will play an influential role when the Urban Warriors head for Angola for the opening game in the CAF Confederation Cup. In August this year, he heads for Brazil as a member of the South African Under-23 squad for the Rio Olympics. And throughout this, he will also be involved in Bafana Bafana’s qualifying campaigns for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 World Cup.

On the surface, that would appear to be a tough programme for a footballer so young, but that’s exactly what makes Coetzee such a special player. He’s mature beyond his years, takes everything in his stride and nothing seems to faze him.

Having forged a fantastic partnership with 21-year-old Abbubaker Mobara over the last two seasons, Coetzee has now had to adapt to a new man alongside him in the Ajax defence.

The signing of highly-rated 22-year-old Ghanaian centre back Lawrence Lartey has seen utility player Mobara shifted to right back (the position he plays for the SA U23s).

“I think Lawrence has come in at the right time,” said Coetzee. “He’s doing well and coping with the PSL. He’ll go from strength to strength and I’m sure we’ll improve our combination the more we play together.

“For me, as a footballer, I believe that everyone has their own unique qualities and different strengths, and I have to adapt to whatever they bring to the team. So far, Lawrence and I have worked well.”

Coetzee, though, admits that Ajax’s inconsistency, especially their inability to score regularly, places immense pressure on the defence.

“Look, that’s just how football is. Sometimes we dominate teams, but fail to score. The opposition then gets one attack, there is an error at the back, and they score. All eyes then turn to us at the back.

“Arrows won’t be easy today. We’ve played them twice before this season (a defeat and a draw), so we know a bit about them.

“They’ll be difficult, but we just have to focus on our game, keep creating the scoring chances we have, and hopefully, now that we are at home, we can start to convert a lot more.”

“The mood in the camp is high and the character in the squad is as strong as ever.

“Our attitude is to focus on each game as it comes. We try not to look too far ahead… win the game at hand and then prepare for the next one.”

As a young, emerging player, though, Coetzee is especially looking forward to his first outing in the continental inter-club competition, the CAF Confederation Cup.

“We’ll be travelling to Angola for the opening, first-leg fixture next month and we know it will be tough,” he said.

“The travel will be difficult and the conditions different, but as a squad of young players, we are looking at this competition as an opportunity to toughen us up.

“It will provide us with good experience that will stand us in good stead for the rest of our careers.”

Cape Times

Original source: Rivaldo looks to toughen up in 2016

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