Soccer / 8 September 2019, 10:30am / Mihlali Baleka
In the second leg miracles do happen!
Under-23 national men’s team coach David Notoane fired that warning as he urged his troops not to get carried away after mopping the floor with Zimbabwe in the first leg of the final round of the qualifier for the Caf eight-nation tournament.
On Friday night South Africa took a gigantic step to qualifying for their second successive Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament when they beat Zimbabwe 5-0 at home.
However, Notoane knows that you cannot count your chickens before they hatch, especially away from home.
“When you score five goals at home, you are obviously happy to take such a comfortable lead into the second leg. But there are many stories that are documented about teams that have taken comfortable leads and in the second leg miracles do happen.
“So, we must guard against that and refocus,” he said.
The under-23s’ ticket to the eight-nation event, where they’ll need a top three finish to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will be stamped after the return leg on Tuesday.
Notoane will take several positives into that encounter, such as his striking contingent scoring 11 goals in three matches.
Overseas-based duo Luther Singh and Lyle Foster scored a hat-trick and a brace respectively in the last three matches.
However, the latter has been under pressure to deliver, especially after joining Belgian Jupiler Pro League side Cercle Brugge on a season-long loan from French giants AS Monaco.
That deal is set to give Foster, 19, game time and revive the confidence and promising knack for goal that saw Monaco lure him away from Orlando Pirates early this year.
Notoane though believes they should tread carefully with how they use the Soweto-born striker, in order to help him reach his true potential.
“I think the move from Monaco to Cercle Brugge was to give the young boy a chance but there’s a lot of information to collect, such as how far he has grown or how far behind is he with the standards of Monaco,” Notoane said.
“But it goes for all the other young players. But one has to be grateful to Safa for having 24 players in camp. We also brought in Khanya Leshabela, 19, from Leicester City, yes for the purpose of playing him but we also want to integrate him.”
Notoane’s troops carry the country’s only hopes of making it to Tokyo after Banyana Banyna crashed out in the second round of the qualifiers against Botswana on Tuesday.
Notoane understands they are not yet well oiled machines to challenge for a top three finish in the Afcon, but he takes delight in what he’s seen so far.
“I think we are closer to crossing the first stage of our process, which is getting to Egypt, expanding the pool and seeing who’s ready to graduate to Bafana,” Notoane said.
“We are also looking at the under-20 group that has just come back from Poland, and seeing who’s ready to step up. Next phase is to increase the level of competition as we prepare for Egypt. So far, so good.”