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‘We have to play our own game,’ says U23 ace Ntshangase
- Updated: December 4, 2015
The national Under-23 men’s football side goes into Friday’s clash with Tunisia with a full knowledge of what they are up against in the Cup of Nations Olympic qualifying tournament in Dakar, Senegal.
That’s because the two nations met recently in back-to-back international friendly matches. The first encounter in Tunisia in early September this year was won 4-0 by South Africa – with a Lebogang Mothiba brace, one goal from Zaid Patel and an own goal.
Just three days later at the same venue, the North Africans turned the tables and registered a 2-1 win with Thabo Makhele scoring for South Africa.
Now less than three months later the two countries meet again, this time in a crucial Group A match.
South Africa have lost to Senegal (3-1) but bounced back to beat Zambia 3-2 in their second match.
‘It’s going to be a very good game to play, one that everyone is looking forwar-d to. This one means a lot because it’s a decider between Tunisia and us as to who will go to the semifinals, and we all want to go there. It’s going to be tough though,’ said SA U23 midfielder Phumlani Ntshangase after the squad’s final training session ahead of the match.
‘We have played them before but it was a friendly match and it is all in the past. This is a different ball game. The confidence of our team is very high – no one is scared because this is a big dream for us to go to Rio de Janeiro and we will give all we can. They are very big guys, they are very good in the air but we have to play our own game and we will then be able to handle them.’
South Africa currently sit on three points and while Tunisia also have three points South Africa have a better goals difference.
‘We played good football against Zambia and we should take that performance into the Tunisia match. If we play it on the ground, which is where we are strong, it will work for us and because of their size they not as fast as we are so we should take that advantage,’ added Ntshangase.
‘We must go for a win and not think of a draw. I was telling my teammates that it would be lovely to qualify outright with a win rather than looking at the permutations. A win will save us all that trouble and get us closer to our dream.’
The bulk of the South African squad that played in the friendly matches against Tunisia is in Senegal.
Kick-off is at 7pm South African time.