SA under-23 coach David Notoane continues to sweat in Egypt
David Notoane may not be thinking this far ahead‚ but he faces a potentially crucial knockout game at the 2019 Africa Under-23 Cup of Nations without his key players that could scupper the country’s chances of reaching the Tokyo 2022 Olympic Games.
South Africa face Ivory Coast in their second pool match at the tournament in Egypt on Tuesday‚ having played to a 0-0 draw with Zambia in their opener with a threadbare squad of 15 players‚ including three goalkeepers‚ as clubs refused to release star names outside of the FIFA international window.
Notoane now has a full complement in camp for the Ivorian challenge‚ as well as Friday’s clash with Nigeria and a potential semifinal next Tuesday.
Should South Africa reach the final they will be among the three teams who qualify for the Olympics‚ but Notoane also faces the prospect of a crucial third-place play-off match on November 22‚ outside of the window‚ with only a threadbare squad again.
“The clubs want the players back after the FIFA week‚ but it is better to have the players available now because if you look at the dates of the tournament‚ by the end of the FIFA week‚ God willing‚ we are in the final‚” Notoane said.
“So you would rather have the headache of qualifying for the Olympics‚ and if you go into the final without those players‚ then so be it.
“But for the players‚ we hope that logic would prevail and the clubs will allow them to participate in the final should we reach it. We are hoping for that.”
That weekend of the final/bronze-medal match is the Telkom Knockout semifinals on the domestic front‚ and a few days later there is a full round of Absa Premiership midweek action that will effect local players.
Notoane would have almost no price in trying to keep star forwards Luther Singh (Moreirense‚ Portugal) and Lyle Foster (Cercle Brugge‚ Belgium).
But for now he knows he must just concentrate on reaching the semifinals‚ otherwise all that talk is academic‚ and Ivory Coast‚ who beat Nigeria 1-0 in their opener‚ will be a huge challenge.
But he believes with the players he now has at his disposal‚ he can execute the game-plan he wants.
“When you have a higher quality of players available‚ it influences your selection‚” Notoane says.
“Modern football is about transitions‚ and we are will try to maximise our opportunities in the transition phase.
“When we win the ball‚ we try to come out quickly and make sure that we exploit the spaces that are available.
“So going into the Ivory Coast game we have players with the technical and tactical awareness to be able to take advantage of those situations.
“If you want to win matches you need to score goals. Lyle Foster is a proven goal-scorer‚ Luther Singh has the ability to score goals‚ so we hope they will bring the experience and give us the edge in the match.”