In announcing a bloated 78-man provisional squad for the 2020 Olympic Games, national Under-23 coach David Notoane gave the impression that there are places still up for grabs on the plane to Tokyo.
The truth is that 80 percent of Notoane’s team is already decided and all he is doing is giving himself a huge pool from which to pick the players to fill up the rest.
Notoane selected eight goalkeepers, 27 defenders, 24 midfielders and 19 strikers in a squad made up of 62 local players.
The final squad of 22 players has to be sent to Fifa by July 1 for the football tournament that will be part of the Olympics set to run from July 24 to August 9.
The coach explained that he really only needs to beef up his goalkeeping department, fullbacks and the strike-force.
“We are at 80 percent in terms of the team that we want to take to the Olympics. The 20 percent is likely to be filled up by your experienced players,” Notoane explained.
“We have to look at the current squad and ask ourselves where we need to beef up. Where do we need cover, where do we need quality and where do we need experience in terms of what we have available? The new players will fill those gaps.”
According to Olympic rules, Notoane can select three over-age players in his final squad of 18. Four players will be on standby but will be allowed to travel with the team.
“If you look at fullbacks, we have really struggled, even if you look at the previous Under-20 generation as well. Thendo Mukumela was playing as fullback and we know that Thendo is a centre-back. Through the years he has played in that position. We still have to assess our options on both fullbacks. It’s been a bit problematic in those positions. In the midfield we are spoilt for choice,” he added.
South Africa qualified for their third Olympics after finishing third at the qualifying continental tournament in Egypt last year.
“The goalkeeping department is also a worry because Mondli (Mpoto) is not playing at Bloemfontein Celtic. Darren Johnson is not playing at Ajax Cape Town. (Andile) Mbanjwa, we’ve just brought him in. (Sifiso) Mlungwana is only now beginning to play at Arrows.
“That starts to give you a little bit of sense where we might need experience. Up front is always a problem. The tournament in Egypt gave us an indication as to where our challenges are in terms of experience,” Notoane elaborated.
South Africa will be joined by Egypt and Ivory Coast as other representatives from the continent.
“It wasn’t so difficult (to select a provisional squad). We had to submit the list of 78 players to Sascoc for registration processes. We looked at the Under-20 players that we would love to run the rule over. We looked a overseas-based players and some local. We also looked at the future in terms of the younger ones that are emerging. That’s the talent that is available. We will see as the camps unfold who eventually raises their hands.”