Stellenbosch FC will take on Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final of the 2023 Premier League Next Generation Cup.
Evangelos Vellios’ reigning champions will have the opportunity to defend their Premier League Next Generation Cup crown in Mumbai when they take on Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Reliance Corporate Park stadium on Friday afternoon.
Stellies qualified for the showpiece encounter by topping Group A with seven points from three matches, having defeated Indian sides Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, and played out an entertaining 3-3 draw against West Ham United.
They face a different prospect in the form of an impressive Wolves outfit, who topped Group B with three wins out of three and having scored 10 goals without reply against the likes of Everton, RF Youth Champs and Sudeva Delhi.
“I think it’s going to be a tough game,” Vellios said ahead of the final. “I think of all the teams at the tournament, they look like they are the strongest physically.
“They have some powerful players and nice processes, they are very dangerous from set-pieces, very good wing play, and a striker who seems to be a menace, so we have our work cut out for us and it’s not going to be easy.
“We will approach the game with humility and respect, knowing that we are the minnows. But we take a lot of confidence from the games we have played here so far…
“We just want the boys to enjoy it. It’s not every day you get the chance to play in a final and the match will be live on national television back home and on the Premier League, all over the world people can watch this game.
“The fact that we won it last season and reemerged in the final this year is already something we can already be proud of, so we don’t have the pressure to prove ourselves. We can do it for ourselves and our people back home and really enjoy the occasion. The rest will take care of itself.”
Visit this page again before kick-off to watch the match live via the link below, courtesy of the Premier League
The coach also stressed that winning the competition for a second year in a row would not only be a massive achievement for the club, but for South African football as a whole, and revealed his hope that some of the players taking part would receive the international recognition they deserve for their performances.
“I think it would be massive for us, for our supporters, our community, and our country,” he added. “People may say that last season was a one-hit-wonder or that it was a really special group of players – which it was – but I think we have disproved that myth by reaching the final again.
“We drew 3-3 against the FA Youth Cup champions (West Ham United) and if someone was to rewatch that game, based on chances or expected goals, I think they would see that we were far superior on the day, and they are a really good team.
“I think it would make people realise last season’s win was not a fluke and that there is real talent here. I would love to see one or two of these boys go on to other leagues in other countries and really start putting South Africa back on the map again.
“We’ve got very talented and skillful players waiting for that opportunity. I just look at players like Antonio van Wyk, Kyle Bailey, and Kyle Jurgens, just to name a few, and you can see that they belong on this pitch, so hopefully people are taking notice.”
Friday’s match is scheduled to kick off at the Reliance Corporate Park stadium at 14h30 (18h00 in India) and will broadcast live on both SuperSport Schools and the official Premier League Youtube channel.