Johannesburg – South African Football Association (SAFA) president Dr Danny Jordaan, accompanied by Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki recently welcomed the U-23 men’s national team back home after qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will be held in Japan from 22 July to 8 August.
Only two players, Luther Singh (FC Porto) and Lyle Foster (Belgium), did not travel with the team as they returned to their clubs.
South Africa earned bronze medals following their third place finish in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when they defeated Ghana 6-5 on penalties after both teams ended up with a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes regulation time.
South Africa joins Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire as the three representatives of the African continent at the Olympic Games.
This is their third qualification for the competition. In 2000 Shakes Mashaba led the squad in Sydney, Australia and at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 Owen da Gama was in charge.
Nine teams have already qualified for Tokyo 2020; hosts Japan, South Africa, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire (all from CAF); France, Germany, Romania and Spain (all from UEFA) as well as New Zealand (OFC).
Still to be determined are the representatives of CONMEBOL (2), CONCACAF (2) and AFC (3) to complete the 16 teams for the tournament.
Despite the bronze medal, South Africa had a good tournament as they received four Man of the Match awards in five matches; Kamohelo Mahlatsi, Teboho Mokoena and Luther Singh (2).
The same players are the ones that scored South Africa’s three goals.
Captain Tercious Malepe was named in the Best 11 of the competition.
Goalkeeper Darren Johnson kept three clean sheets in the first three games, before being bridged three times by the hosts in a 3-0 loss in the semi-final.
In the third/fourth play-off match, Mondli Mpoto was introduced in goals and made two crucial penalty saves to book South Africa’s ticket to the Olympics.