Head coach Owen da Gama, has announced his starting XI to take on Brazil in the South African men’s football side’s opening match of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on Thursday evening.
South African football has waited 16 years for this day to arrive, and the countdown to the 4pm (local time, SA time 9pm) kick-off has started for the highly-anticipated big showdown.
At the Sydney Olympics, South Africa had an historic victory over Brazil, despite not progressing to the next round.
One of the over-age players, Itumeleng Khune will start in goals.
The central defence pairing from Bafana Bafana of Rivaldo Coetzee and Erick Mathoho will be in operation in front of Khune, while Deolin Mekoa will occupy the leftback position. Abbubaker Mobara will play at rightback.
In midfield, captain Keagan Dolly will pull the strings from his usual leftwing position with Aubrey Modiba on the rightwing. They will be assisted by Mothobi Mvala and Gift Motupa who have been slotted in the heart of the midfield.
Goals will be expected from Menzi Masuku and Lebo Mothiba.
‘Football is a team sport and coaches work very hard to produce a final product such as this one – but it is now up to the players to re-write the history of South African football at this level, it is also up to the players to write this exciting chapter in the books of their individual lives.
‘However, they will only accomplish that if the play as a unit, as one team;’ said Da Gama.
Meanwhile just hours after their narrow 1-0 loss to Sweden in their first match of the 2016 Olympics, Banyana Banyana have wished their male counterparts luck in their tough assignment against the hosts.
‘On behalf of Banyana Banyana I would like to take this opportunity to wish the SA u23 squad all the best in their match against Brazil. We know it is not going to be an easy one, but just know that everyone is behind you, the country is behind you and supporting you every step of the way,’ said Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk from their base camp in Rio de Janeiro.
‘Go and do it for yourselves, go and do it for everyone back home. We believe in you, you have worked so hard for this, you have come a long way and now it’s your moment to shine. All the best and good luck from all of us.’
South African starting XI:
Itumeleng Khune (GK); Deolin Mekoa; Abbubaker Mobara; Eric Mathoho; Rivaldo Coetzee; Mothobi Mvala; Gift Motupa; Keagan Dolly (c); Menzi Masuku; Aubrey Modiba; Lebo Mothiba
Jody February (GK); Tebogo Moerane; Kwanda Mngonyama; Tercious Malepe; Phumlani Ntshangase; Tyroane Sandows; Tashreeq Morris