Nigeria stand between SA U23 and Caf semis

Head coach of the South African Olympic Team, David Notoane (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

The national Under-23 team are just 90 minutes away from qualifying for the semifinals in the Caf Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations, which would bring them closer to qualifying for next year’s Olympics.

Standings on their way however are old time rivals, Nigeria’s Dream Team who they meet in a Group B match at the Al Salam Stadium, in Egypt tonight. The game start at 8pm local time.

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With four points already in the bag for the South Africans going into this game and on top of the Group B, a draw will be enough to see David Notoane’s team qualifying for the last four of the competition.

Nigeria are in second place in the group with three points, level with Ivory Coast, who take on Zambia who have only collected one point, also this evening.

South African captain, Tercious Malepe is confident of the team doing well against Nigeria but acknowledges that it will be a difficult match against the West African nation.

“We know what we are coming up against,” said Malepe. “They are a very good side and very strong. And they went on to win 3-1 against Zambia and that is where they showed their quality.

“But we believe in ourselves, we have been working really hard since we came here. It wasn’t easy at first after some of the players only joined the squad after the first match. But we are ready to fight and win the match because we want to qualify for the semi-finals. So, it’s all up to us looking at the log table. We are on top with four points – all that we have to do is win our game.”

The ultimate prize is a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games which the top three finishers in the competition will get. Malepe adds that the team’s goal is to qualify for the Olympics, but they will take everything one game at a time.

“Qualifying for the Olympic is the main goal but there is still a long way to go. The focus has to be on this game and the rest will follow.”

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