SA under-23 primed for Zimbabwe challenge
JOHANNESBURG – With Banyana Banyana having failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the Under-23 national mens’ team understands they are under pressure to deliver for the country.
That was the admission of the junior national team’s coach David Notoane, who’ll guide his charges against Zimbabwe in the last round of the CAF eight nations qualifier, starting in the first leg at Orlando Stadium, tonight (7pm kick-off).
Banyana crashed out of in the second round of the Olympic qualifier after suffering a 3-2 penalty shoot-out loss on Tuesday night.
The baton of keeping the country’s aspirations in the world event had since been handed to the Under-23s, who’ll first have to see off the Young Warriors of Zimbabwe first.
If they win against the Warriors, the South Africans will qualify for the CAF eight nations tournament that will be held later this year in Egypt, where they’ll need a top-three finish to make their second successive Olympic Games.
Notoane, who’s kept the bulk of the squad that played Angola in the second qualifier, while also recalling players from the Cosafa Championship and Chan qualifiers, believes the togetherness within the team will do them a world of good.
“We are happy with what we’ve got in camp,” Notoane said.
“The numbers are good because we brought in 24 players that give us good permutations for both ties. So, so far, so good.”
The South Africans cruised into the second round of the eight nation’s qualifier against Angola, while the Young Warriors had to dig deep for their win against Mozambique.
Notoane will, however, be sure not to underestimate a Zimbabwean side which boasts European-based players such as Seth Patrick, Shama Bako (both Germany), Matifadza Zata (Scotland), Reward Mwakona (Northern Ireland), Enrique Ndlovu (Slovakia) and Martin Mapisa (Spain).
“We’ve tried to source information. We’ve had foot soldiers that went out to watch Zimbabwe in the last qualifying game against Mozambique.” Notoane said.
“It’s been a hell of a journey for me to try and source footage because the games are not televised live but they are recorded. So that was a cat and mouse story. But we have the information, and we know what we up against and they’ve gone for a wide pool of their foreign players as well.”
Despite the scrappy knowledge about Zimbabwe this evening, Notoane banks on the system of continuing with the same players in the last three tournaments this year as tool that will deliver them to the promised-land.
“We’ve gone with continuity from where we started. I think in the balance of the two teams, we’ll have better momentum.@Mihlalibaleka