Massive day as SA Olympic spot beckons


South Africa’s under-23 team currently competing in the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Egypt are just 90 minutes away from sealing their places at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Hosts Egypt stand between South Africa and a place in the final of the continental showpiece, where they could face either Ghana or a rematch with Ivory Coast on Friday.

Coach David Notoane’s side kicked off the tournament 10 days ago, with a total of just 13 players due to club vs country challenges, but proceeded against all odds through a tough group, which also contained Zambia and Nigeria.

The Mamelodi Sundowns youth coach has since reflected on the task that lies ahead as they meet the young Pharaohs at the Cairo International Stadium this evening (20h00).

“A big game for us; the game that gives us an opportunity to achieve what we came here for, which is to go the Olympics and of course to reach the final and win the championship,” said Notoane.

“We’re playing against a team that we know very well, and I’m sure they know us very well, having come here before [the tournament, in October] to play two practice matches.

“It’s good that we are both in the semi-finals, so we’ll prepare thoroughly for the game and the best team on the day will be the team that goes through.”

Notoane further stressed that the knockout stage allows them to focus firmly on one opponent without having to fret over permutations of other matches elsewhere.

“We are entering a different stage of the competition because, when you play the group stage, and play three opponents, you have to check permutations on the other side while you’re playing your own matches,” he added.

“Now we only have one opponent before us – it’s the knockout stage and it’s against Egypt, so we’ll take the game to them.

“I think we are a team that has found good balance between attack and defence but of course we haven’t scored a lot of goals – one from a free-kick, but we’ve created some good moments.

“Hopefully this is the day we take our opportunities that we create, and we keep our clean sheet, then we are in the final – it’s as simple as that.”