Bafana’s over­aged to bol­ster Da Gama’s side

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

“The spine of the team is im­por­tant” – so says na­tional Un­der-23 coach Owen da Gama, as he beefs up his squad for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

City Press has re­li­ably learnt that Da Gama has iden­ti­fied the Bafana Bafana trio of cap­tain Itume­leng Khune, de­fender Eric Mathoho and in­dus­tri­ous mid­fielder Andile Jali as his over­age play­ers for the Olympics.

The trio were the heart­beat of Bafana’s re­cent suc­cess in the Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball’s Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fiers against Gam­bia.

While Khune kept a clean sheet in the 4-0 drub­bing of the West African coun­try, Mathoho and Jali were equally out­stand­ing in their re­spec­tive po­si­tions.

Bafana had not lost in their pre­vi­ous three qual­i­fiers – in­clud­ing the two draws against Cameroon, in March and April. How­ever, Da Gama could not be drawn into dis­clos­ing his pre­ferred play­ers.

Be­fore the team’s de­par­ture for the Cosafa tour­na­ment in Namibia, Da Gama told City Press he had submitted his 35-man list to Sas­coc.

“We had to sub­mit the 35 names by the end of May and it is out of my hands now. We have un­til July 14 to sub­mit our fi­nal list and, as you can imag­ine, it has not been easy as ev­ery­body wants to go to the Olympics,” said Da Gama.

In an ef­fort to help Da Gama, Shakes Mashaba took mostly Un­der-23 play­ers in his Bafana squad to Cosafa.

Da Gama said he would use the tour­na­ment and their trip to Ja­pan to trim the squad to the re­quired 22 play­ers. The fi­nal list of 18 play­ers and four on standby has to be submitted to South Africa’s Olympic gov­ern­ing body Sas­coc by July 14. What do they bring? Goal­keeper: Khune With goal­keeper Jody Fe­bru­ary hardly fea­tur­ing for Ajax Cape Town, Khune will not only bring the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence and sta­bil­ity in the last line of de­fence, but also his lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. The Kaizer Chiefs num­ber one will lead from the back and launch at­tacks with his ac­cu­rate passes. Fe­bru­ary, who was the team’s hero in the qual­i­fiers when he stopped four penal­ties, could learn a lot from the tal­ented Khune. Cen­tral de­fence: Mathoho There is no doubt that Mathoho has been the coun­try’s num­ber one cen­tre back. The Chiefs de­fender will re­unite with his Bafana cen­tre back part­ner Ri­valdo Coet­zee should he make the cut. The two have formed a good part­ner­ship in the heart of the Bafana de­fence and know each other well. With Kwanda Mn­gonyama a doubt­ful player given his ham­string in­jury, the door is open for Mathoho to fill this space. His work rate and aerial power will as­sist the young team. Mn­gonyama, who was sent home from Namibia, is racing against time to re­gain his fit­ness be­fore the cut­off date. Mid­field: Jali Jali fits the bill. Be­cause of his stature, he will bring in the re­quired ma­tu­rity and com­po­sure as he has played against the best in the busi­ness. He also brings pro­tec­tion to the de­fence and can cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties in the mid­dle.

Da Gama’s side will come up against Barcelona su­per­star Ney­mar in their open­ing game af­ter be­ing drawn against the host na­tion.

They will also play Den­mark and Iraq.

PHOTO: SYD­NEY SESHIBEDI / GALLO IM­AGES

RE­LI­ABLE Bafana Bafana goal­keeper and cap­tain Itume­leng Khune is poised to play in the Olympics

PHOTO: SYD­NEY SESHIBEDI / GALLO IM­AGES

PROMIS­ING De­fender Eric Mathoho, who may form a part­ner­ship with Ri­valdo Coet­zee at the Rio Games, is seen here work­ing the ball with Mpho Makola

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