The South African Under-23 team have been drawn in Group A at the Olympics with battles against Japan, Mexico and France in line for them, but head coach David Notoane believes the team can make it out of the group stages with good preparation.
The squad learned of their opponents following the draw held at Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday.
“We now know the identity of our opponents finally, tough draw but I think it is a good draw looking at other groups. So, I think it’s a group in which with good preparation and good application we can get out of and get to the knockout stages,” said the SA Under-23 coach.
“At a look at it one is very happy with how the draw came up. We look forward to playing at the Tokyo Stadium which is also a plus because it’s the base of the Olympics. So, we are happy to be based in Tokyo and we are very excited with the draw and looking forward to having a focus on preparation after knowing who our opponents are.”
This will be the third time the SA Under-23 squad will be competing at the global games with their first appearance having been in Sydney 2000, where they finished in the quarterfinals while in Brazil 2016 they failed to make it out of the group phase.
Looking at the opponents, Notoane’s charges will be locking horns with Mexico, who have competed at the Olympic games five times before – winning the tournament in 2012 in London. Meanwhile, Japan have qualified for the games seven times now and their best result was finishing in fourth place in 2012.
Whereas the French return to the men Olympic football tournament for the first time after last participating in 1996 where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Portugal 2-1. But France have won the gold medal before after finishing best in the 1984 edition of the tournament in Los Angeles, US.
The tournament is set to start on 21 July until 7 August 2021.