Olympics in their sights as under-23s put 5 past Zimbabwe in Orlando
The South African under-23 team thrashed their Zimbabwean counterparts 5-0 in the first leg of their 2020 Tokyo Olympic play-off at Orlando Stadium on Friday night.
The win greatly boosted their chances of qualifying for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Well-taken first-half goals by Kabomelo Kodisang, Luther Singh and Teboho Mokoena put the home team comfortably ahead. Then another by Singh and one from Lyle Foster - who also tallied up two assists - in the second half made it a near-certainty that South Africa would reaching the eight-nation under-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt from November 8 to 22.
The three top-finishing teams in Egypt will represent the African continent at the Tokyo Olympics.
Singh completed his brace on the hour mark, with man-of-the-moment Kodisang providing a great assist to his fellow Portugal-based striker.
Foster killed the match as a contest in the 66th minute by tapping home a cheeky backheel pass he received inside the box from SuperSport United’s in-form midfielder Sipho Mbule.
South Africa now seem assured of a win in the tie even before a ball has been kicked in the second leg in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
Ahead of this match, coach David Notoane had spoken at great length about the importance of taking a healthy lead to Bulawayo - and his boys responded positively to his message.
Notoane’s side are looking good to make it to Japan judging by the way the likes of Mbule, Mokoena, Singh, Foster and Kodisang easily toyed with their neighbours in this match.
South Africa qualified for the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2016, where, despite holding Iraq and Brazil to goalless draws, they were knocked out in the first round after finishing bottom of Group A.
A pressing game high up the field helped Notoane’s team to open the score in the 17th minute, with Kodisang finishing strongly after getting a pass from Foster. This was after Zimbabwe had given possession away near their danger area.
It was the former Orlando Pirates striker Foster who again linked up well with his partner Singh to set up the second goal in the 34th minute, the latter letting rip with a belter to beat Zimbabwe’s keeper Martin Mapisa at the near post with a low shot.
Mokoena completed the first half rout in the 38th minute after brilliantly beating Mapisa with a ground shot he took just outside the area; again this goal coming as a result of Notoane’s team pressing the visitors deep into their half.
Before the kick-off of this match there was also a moment of silence for former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, who died aged 95 in a Singapore hospital on Friday morning.
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