U23 squad rocked by five withdrawals ahead of Tokyo Olympics
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DURBAN - In a dramatic turn of events, the South African Under-23 squad due to compete in the Olympics had to release five players owing to medical reasons.
The five released include important players such as Lyle Foster, Fagrie Lakay, Abbubaker Mobara, Sipho Mbule and Keletso Makgalwa. There is no doubt that the news will severely affect the national team's preparations for the Tokyo Games.
With the exception of Makgalwa, the other four were expected to be a key pillar of David Notoane's plans in Tokyo.
The 27-year-old Mobara was expected to also occupy a crucial leadership role in the squad as one of the overage players.
"(The) South Africa U23 Olympic Team has suffered a huge blow following the withdrawal of five players due to various medical reasons," Safa said.
"The changes in the camp comes a week after Sascoc announced the final U23 men's Olympic squad for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games to take place from July 22 to August 8, 2021.
“South Africa is in Group A together with hosts Japan who they play on July 22 at Tokyo Stadium and France who they meet at Saitama Stadium on July 25. The U23s will then round off their group stage matches against Mexico at the Sapporo Dome on July 28.”
Coach Notoane is due to name replacements for the players in due course.
Meanwhile, Bafana Bafana will play in their third Cosafa Cup match against neighbouring nation Lesotho at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow.
The South Africans enter the game on the back of consecutive 1-0 wins over Botswana and Eswatini, and will be looking for nothing less than a third win on the trot against the 146th ranked nation.
Helman Mkhalele's team playing in the Cosafa Cup is largely made up of fringe players who will be aiming to impress in order to try and win selection to the Bafana squad that will attempt to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Bafana will also be looking to improve upon their performances from the opening two games of the tournament. While they did beat Eswatini and Botswana they should be beating most nations in Cosafa, with the exception of Zambia, with ease if they hope to be competitive against the best nations on the African continent.
Bafana will be aiming to win the southern African tournament that they last claimed in 2016.