Coach David Notoane will be hoping to pull his Under-23 national team closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – David Notoane will be hoping to pull his Under-23 national team closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games when they take on Angola in the second leg of the qualifiers at Bidvest Stadium this afternoon.

In the first leg away in Angola Notoane led his charges to a 3-1 win, thanks to strikes from Phakamani Mahlambi, Thendo Mukumela and Grant Mergamen, while the hosts got their consolation from Lopez Texeira. A win today will send the South Africans to the last round of the qualifiers where they’ll meet Zimbabwe or Mozambique/eSwatini.

However, that will merely allow them to qualify for Egypt’s 2019 eight-nation tournament in November, where they’ll need a top-three finish to qualify for an Olympic spot.

The Under-23s are no strangers in the Olympics Games having made the last tournament in Rio de Janero, Brazil, in 2016. However, then-coach Owen Da Gama could only propel his troops to a group stage finish.

Da Gama might have vacated the post, but if South Africa’s first leg performance against the Angolans is anything to go by, then the team is in good hands under Notoane. The 50-year-old coach has been around long enough to know what’s required to instil a winning mentality in the young lads, especially after leading the Mamelodi Sundowns’ reserve team to the MultiChoice Diski Challenge three seasons ago.

Sure, Notoane might have been slammed in the build-up for these qualifiers after leaving out on-form players such as striker Tshegofatso Mabasa, who’s got nine goals in the PSL (three behind the league’s top goal scorer Mwape Musonda).

But their mesmeric win on Friday is evident that the former Santos player has got the best players available at his disposal, and the likes of Mahlambi, Luther Singh, Teboho Mokoena and Mukumela are integral players for their clubs in domestic and continental competitions. Furthermore, Notoane’s troops should avoid complacency as much as they can, as a winning mentality will be pivotal in the campaign to reach the Olympics Games.

The Under-23s has been a solid way of climbing up the ladder for a number of current and former players in South African football, and Cape Town City’s coach Benni McCarthy is a living testimony.

McCarthy started for the Under-20s, and later moved up to Amaglug-glug and went on to become the only South African to win the Uefa Champions League, and he’s still Bafana’s all-time top scorer with 31 goals.

On the other hand, a qualification for the Olympics Games will put the country at a bigger scheme of things - being the fourth national team to qualify for a major event this year as Bafana have booked their ticket to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), while Banyana Banyana and Amajita will play in the Fifa World Cups in France and Poland respectively.

@Mihlalibaleka



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