U-23s wilt in the heat
The young Bafana team looked good at the start of the game, but their porous defence did not help their cause, and they looked exhausted at the end
The South African Under-23s endured a rough start in their opening group match of the CAF Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations against hosts Senegal at Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar yesterday. Now Owen Da Gama and his troops must pick up the pieces and make the most of their second Group A fixture against Zambia on Tuesday to rescue their chances of clinching one of Africa’s three berths at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The continental eight-nation tournament serves to determine Confederation of African Football (CAF) qualification for the men’s Olympic football tournament in Rio and South Africa have two more chances to turn around their fortunes.
First, they must rework their defence, as their porous rearguard is sure to count against them in their upcoming games.
This despite a rather positive start yesterday in which South Africa pressed hard for most of the opening quarter but failed to make the most of the early chances they created.
Instead, they were made to play catch-up after the hosts struck twice within five minutes through Ibrahima Keita midway into the opening half.
The deficit was a result of schoolboy errors by the South African rearguard marshalled by captain Kwanda Mngonyama.
Da Gama’s side was spared any further embarrassment when Ajax Cape Town defender Rivaldo Coetzee – with 11 Bafana Bafana caps – brought his experience to the fore with a clearance off the line when his fellow defenders cracked under pressure.
There was also little that goalkeeper Ricardo Goss could do to stop Sidy Sarr’s fierce strike, which sent the game beyond doubt three minutes from regulation time.
As much as South Africa stumbled at the back, their prospects going forward were a different ball game.
The junior Bafana team enjoyed a positive start, with Bidvest Wits’ rising star Phakamani Mahlambi the main threat. His cause was aided by Keagan Dolly, who had a few chances at goal as well, including two strikes that came off the Senegal wall in deadball situations.
The 16-year-old striker was a handful for Senegal right back Ibrahima Diedhiou each time he surged forward,