Huge task awaits

2015-12-09 06:00
READY FOR WAR: Owen da Gama and his young men are 90 minutes away from reaching the CAF u.23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.  Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

READY FOR WAR: Owen da Gama and his young men are 90 minutes away from reaching the CAF u.23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

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THE South African u.23 men’s national team is well aware of the huge task that is facing them, as they will take on Algeria in the semi-final of the CAF u.23 Africa Cup of Nations Tournament.

The match will be played at Stade Leopold Senghor in Dakar, Senegal, on Wednesday (09/12).

Kick-off is scheduled for 18:30.

En route to this tournament South Africa played three friendly matches against North African oppositions.

First they defeated Egypt 2-1 in Durban in June, followed with a 4-0 away win in September over Tunisia in in Tunis. The home side won the second match by 2-1 a few days later.

South Africa continued with their good run over North Africa when they beat Tunisia by 1-0 again in Senegal in the group stages on Friday (04/12) in M’bour.

“The clash against Algeria gives us a chance to play another North African country – we played Tunisia and Egypt in friendlies before the tournament and we did well.

“I think we carry a slight advantage over them, but we still have to work hard for the victory. We know it won’t come easy because the North Africans always fight until the final whistle,” said Deolin Mekoa, South African u.23 midfielder.

“The good thing is that we are peaking at the right time. Against Senegal in the opening match we had a bad day at the office, but we bounced back against Zambia.

“We also got the required results against Tunisia, which shows we are doing something right and now we must continue from there. Algeria will be tough, but we are ready for the fight,” he said.

Algeria finished top of Group B after two draws and one win. South Africa advanced to the semifinals with two wins and a defeat. They finished second in Group A.

“It’s going to be a good match, but I am confident we will do well and go to the final. We will go out guns blazing in this match as we did against Tunisia.

“I have a lot of confidence in my team because of how we played against Tunisia, and a lot of credit must go to the defence who did very well,” said Mekoa.

“We have to win against Algeria and go directly into the final. The aim is not to settle for anything less X we should not even think about the two chances we have of qualifying for Rio (a third-place finish will also secure an Olympic spot) as that will put us under unnecessary pressure.

“Once we get the job done on Wednesday, we can then relax while we wait for the final, but anything less will make us very anxious and we might even lose focus.”

Qualifying for the Olympics means a lot to Owen Da Gama’s young men.

“It will be great to qualify for Rio because it will open doors for many players to perhaps secure bigger contracts as we will be playing on the big stage.

“So yes, it’s a very big deal to qualify for the Olympics, and we are all aware of that as players. It is perhaps the most important 90 minutes of our lives and careers.

“We have to go out there, fight for the flag and for ourselves, and I believe we can do it,” said Mekoa.

Hosts Senegal and Nigeria meet in the other semi-final match at 17:00. The match will also take place on Wednesday (09/12) at Stade Leopold Senghor.

The finals will be played on Saturday (12/12). The top three finishers will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

CAF u.23 Afcon Fixtures:

Saturday, 12 December

Third place play-offs:

Léopold Senghor Stadium (Senegal)

16:00 (18:00 SA Time)

Finals:

Léopold Senghor Stadium (Senegal)

19:00 (21:00 SA Time)

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