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SA soccer sides are edging closer to Rio Olympics
- Updated: August 3, 2015
South Africa’s 2016 Rio Olympic soccer hopes are very much on course after both the national Under-23 men’s side and Banyana Banyana women’s side had good victories at the weekend.
The Under-23 side dismounted Zimbabwe 3-0 on Saturday and coach Owen Da Gama praised his charges saying if this team keep their feet on the ground, it has the making of a Dream Team.
South Africa qualified for the Olympics qualifier 8-Nation tournament in Senegal in which three teams from Africa that will go to Rio will be decided with a convincing 4-1 aggregate win.
The national women’s side are also a step closer to Rio after beating Kenya 1-0 away in Machakos Town, just outside Nairobi. They clinched the tie 2-0 on aggregate.
‘If this side remains united, focused and hungry the way they have shown in the two-legged matches against this strong Zimbabwe side that has already qualified for the All Africa Games, I have little doubt we are slowly creating a team that will leave a legacy for this country. This side has a making of a Dream Team,’ said Da Gama, pictured with the team above.
The wily coach said the boys had shown exceptional talent, displayed cool heads and ‘things can only get better with constant orientation from the technical staff.’
‘I have always said I am looking beyond Senegal. With this type of show, I have little doubt South Africa will be one of the three countries headed for Rio Olympics next year. I am sensing something extraordinary from this team. We just need to continue having proper preparations, collective approach going forward and of course proper planning.
‘I must add that I have had great support from all South Africans including the Premier Soccer League clubs, SAFA hierarchy led by President Danny Jordaan, my support staff of Shaun Bartlett and Deshi Bhaktawer and of course the players themselves deserve the utmost praise,’ he said adding the 3-0 victory over Zimbabwe was one of his greatest coaching highlights.
Da Gama said with the U17, U20, U23, Banyana Banyana and Bafana Bafana having all started to qualify for major tournaments, things were looking better and better for the country.
‘The new SAFA leadership has invested heavily in making sure Vision 2022 is realised and as we can all see, if the country continue to support this initiative, we are headed for the top as a country. All our national teams have started to make a statement on the continent and we can only get better,’ added Da Gama.
Two-goal hero Keagan Dolly said his recent showing should galvanise him to a great 2015/2016 season. ‘I thought going into Saturday’s encounter against this Zimbabwe side, we showed greater appetite and hunger.
‘On a personal note, I am hopeful that my performance in the two legs will catapult my career to the next level. I will continue working hard as a true professional and the rest will take care of themselves,’ he said.
Meanwhile, SAFA President Dr Jordaan has congratulated Owen Da Gama and the boys but added Saturday’s handsome victory was just the beginning of the long journey to Rio 2016.
‘The boys and the entire team showed professionalism and I must say the highlight of this win was the professionalism showed by the entire team.
‘To Owen Da Gama and the boys, well done but now that you have wet the appetite of the nation with this great performance, we expect more from this team. For now go and relax, savour the win but start making preparations for the 8-Nations now,’ said Dr Jordaan.
Back to the women though and first half substitute Rhoda Mulaudzi scored the only goal of the match – a goal that was enough to see Vera Pauw’s charges into the fourth round of the Rio Olympic qualifiers.
Enjoying good support from the decent crowd, the hosts started like a house on fire putting the visitors under pressure. The uneven pitch did not also help matters for Banyana Banyana despite using it for training on two occasions.
Pauw was forced to change her plans when Thembi Kgatlana was taken off after colliding with the opposition goalkeeper early on. Mulaudzi was brought on and became a handful for the Kenyan defenders.
Mulaudzi eventually registered her first goal for Banyana Banyana in the 24th minute. Her well taken long-range shot, after she beat off a defender, silenced the home side supporters instantly.
The goal seemed to give the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana an upper-hand as they took control of the half.
Forward Sanah Mollo had a great chance to increase the lead in the 31st minute but her shot sailed over the bar with the keeper well beaten.
Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Roxanne Barker also came to the party when she made a great save a minute later as she parried the ball for a corner from a Kenyan set-piece taken on the edge of the box. Mollo had another opportunity four minutes before the break, but her shot went wide.
Barker made another great save just before the half-time break, coming out to punch a shot that was destined for goal – keeping Banyana Banyana in the lead going into the changing room.
The second stanza did not produce much action as both teams struggled to unlock each other’s defence.
Kenya got a chance in the 58th minute, but the shot went wide-off Barker’s goal posts.
Banyana Banyana did well to hold on to the 1-0 lead with Barker making two crucial saves in the dying minutes of the match and Mollo coming close to extending the lead seven minutes into stoppage time, but her on-target header was blocked by the Kenyan defenders.