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Egypt looms for Under-23s

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SA's under-23 coach has been around long enough to know what's required to instill a winning mentality in the youngsters

David Notoane, coach of the South African Under-23 football team. Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

David Notoane will be hoping to pull his Under-23 national team closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games when they take on Angola in the second leg of the qualifiers at Bidvest Stadium this afternoon.

In the first leg away in Angola’s Buffalo City Stadium, Notoane led his charges to a 3-1 win, thanks to strikes from Phakamani Mahlambi, Thendo Mukumela and Grant Mergamen, while the hosts got their consolation from Lopez Texeira.

A win today will progress the South Africans to the last round of the qualifiers where they’ll meet Zimbabwe or Mozambique/eSwatini.

However, that will merely allow them to qualify for Egypt’s 2019 eight-nations tournament in November, and there they’ll need a top-three finish to qualify for the sought-after Olympic Games ticket, taking place next summer in Asia.

The Under-23s are no strangers to the Olympics having qualified in the last tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.

Then coach Owen Da Gama could only propel his troops to a group stage finish – despite having the renowned goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who was one of the overage players allowed in the team, between the sticks.

However, there’ll be a lot of inspiration that they’ll draw from that tournament; one being the goalless draw against the hosts Brazil – who went on to clinch the tournament, thanks to the five-star performance from their stalwart Neymar Junior.

Da Gama, might have vacated the post, but if South Africa’s first leg performance against the Angolans is anything to go by, then the team is in good hands under Notoane.

The 50-year-old coach has been around long enough to know what’s required to instil a winning mentality in the young lads, especially after leading the Mamelodi Sundowns’ reserve team to the MultiChoice Diski Challenge three seasons ago.

Sure, Notoane might have been slammed in the build-up to these qualifiers after leaving out in-form players such as striker Tshegofatso Mabasa, who’s got nine goals in the PSL – just three behind the league’s top goal scorer Mwape Musonda.

But their mesmeric win on Friday is evidence that the former Santos player has at his disposal the best players that money can buy, and the likes of Mahlambi, Luther Singh, Teboho Mokoena and Mukumela are integral players for their clubs in domestic and continental competitions.

Furthermore, Notoane’s troops should avoid complacency as much as they can, as a winning mentality will be pivotal in the route to Olympics Games.

Playing for the Under-23s has been a sure way of climbing up the corporate ladder for a number of current and former players in South African football, and Cape Town City’s coach Benni McCarthy is living testimony.

McCarthy pioneered his career at then Amaglug-glug and went on to become the only South African to win the Uefa Champions League, while he’s still Bafana Bafana’s all-time top goal scorer with 31 goals.

On the other hand, qualification for the Olympic Games will confirm that something in SA football is going right – they can potentially be the fourth national team to qualify for a major event this year as Bafana have just booked their ticket to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), while Banyana Banyana and Amajita will play in their Fifa World Cup tournaments in France and Poland respectively.