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

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTH­OWA­GAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­press.co.za

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,

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