The South Africa Under-23 men’s team will face hosts Japan in the opening game of the Tokyo Olympics at the Olympic Stadium on July 21 – following the Football Tournament draw in Zurich.
The South Africans are drawn in Group A alongside the hosts Japan, Mexico and France. This will be South Africa’s third qualification for the Games after participating in the 2000 and 2016 editions in Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.
Coach David Notoane said they won’t be in the tournament to add numbers. ‘We now know the identity of our opponents, finally. Tough draw but I think it’s a good draw if I look at the other groups. I think it’s a good group, with good preparations, we can get out of and go to the knockout stage,’ Notoane said.
Since their maiden qualification in 2000 under coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba, the South Africans are yet to progress beyond the group stage – despite holding eventual winners Brazil in a goalless draw in Rio under coach Owen Da Gama.
Notoane, though, is not leaving any stone unturned, with the likes of Percy Tau, Ronwen Williams and Themba Zwane, who are integral figures of Bafana Bafana, the senior men’s national team, headlining the seven over-age players who been called-up to the 40-man preliminary squad.
THE 40-MAN PROVISIONAL SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Mondli Mpoto (Bloemfontein Celtic), Sifiso Mlungwana (Golden Arrows)
Defenders: Reeve Frosler (Kaizer Chiefs), Luke Fleurs (SuperSport United), Repo Tercious Malepe (Minaj FC, Ukraine), Katlego Mohamme (University of Pretoria), Thabiso Monyane (Orlando Pirates), Thendo Mukumela (Cape Town Spurs), Sifiso Ngobeni (Bloemfontein Celtic), Bongani Sam (Orlando Pirates).
Midfielders: Athenkosi Dlala (University of Pretoria), Luke Le Roux (Varbergs BoIS, Sweden), Kganya Leshabela (Leicester City, England), Kobamelo Kodisang (Sporting Braga B, Portugal), Gift Links (Aarhus, Denmark), Kamohelo Mahlatsi (Swallows FC), Keletso Makgalwa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Grant Margeman (Mamelodi Sundowns), Kgaugelo Chauke (Southampton, England), Sipho Mbule (Supersport United), Happy Mashiane (Kaizer Chiefs), Teboho Mokoena (Supersport United), Nkosiphilile Ngcobo (Kaizer Chiefs), Goodman Mosele (Baroka), Kgaogelo Sekota (Swallows FC), Sithole Sphephelo (Belenenses, Portugal), Ashley Du Preez (Stellenbosch).
Forwards: Lyle Foster (Vitoria Guimaraes II, Portugal), Zakhele Lepasa (Orlando Pirates), Fagrie Lakay (Cape Town City), Evidence Makgopa (Baroka), Luther Singh (Pacos de Ferreira, Portugal, loan), Siyabonga Ligendza (Cardiff City U18, England).
Overage Players: Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United), Ricardo Goss (Mamelodi Sundowns), Percy Tau (Brighton & Hove Albion, England) Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Mosa Lebusa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Mothobi Mvala (Mamelodi Sundowns), Thapelo Morena (Mamelodi Sundowns).