Crucial Olympic clash | SASCOC - SASCOC

Crucial Olympic clash

The South African national under-23 squad is in camp, hard at training ahead of their crucial second leg Olympic qualifier against Benin on Sunday (3pm).

The match now looks to be played at Rand Stadium, Johannesburg after this week being set for Rustenburg and Tembisa. Head coach Shakes Mashaba will be looking to rectify mistakes made in the first leg clash when the South Africans went down 3-1 to Benin in a match played at the Rene Pleven Stadium in Benin on 4 June 2011.

The South Africans are confident of reversing the score line in the clash that will determine entry into the last round of the qualifiers where only eight countries will remain. They will then face each other in an eight-nation tournament where the top three will qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. The fourth-placed team will go into the play-offs against an Asian opponent.

The Under-23 squad assembled for camp on Thursday and have since been training at the Royal Marang Sports Complex in Phokeng/Rustenburg in preparation for this crucial qualifier. Twenty-seven players have been called up and Mashaba has PSL experience in abundance with the likes of Darren Keet in goals, former captain Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Eric Mathoho in defence, Sameeg Doutie, Mandla Masango and Bhongolethu Jayiya in the middle of the park, while Dino Ndlovu and Bongani Ndulula will provide firepower upfront.

ÔÇ£We needed everybody on board for this very important match, but I am very disappointed that not all the players have reported for national team duty. One would have thought that with the league in recess, we would have all the players we wanted but unfortunately it is not the case. I have been given various reasons as to why some of them are not here, but I am not impressed.

“It is clear that some people do not have the interests of the country at heart, this qualifier is very important and should be treated as such. Do not despair. We would also like to say a big thank you to all the teams that were able to release playersÔÇØ said Mashaba.

But the coach remains confident that the players he has in camp will do a good job for the country.

ÔÇ£We are now looking at a more positive approach to the game. We will be working on rectifying the mistakes made in the first leg encounter and building on what we already know about our opponents. We have the home advantage with the crowd behind us, and that should help the players to be more determined to reverse the score line.

“We should be strong in defence, but be focused on attacking more to exert more pressure on our opponent. But I am confident the boys can make us proud and walk away winners on Sunday. We urge the fans to come in great numbers to support the team,ÔÇØ added Mashaba.