David Notoane breathes sigh of relief after three players join Under-23 camp
Mondli Mpoto‚ Keletso Makgalwa and Tercious Malepe can now be included in squad selection for Africa Cup of Nations
SA Under-23 coach David Notoane was a relieved man on Thursday when his squad was boosted by the arrival of three players a day before the start of the eight-nation Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt.
Notoane’s preparations have been hampered by the unavailability of players because part of the Under-23 tournament falls outside the Fifa calendar.
He will have been elated when goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto‚ striker Keletso Makgalwa and skipper Tercious Malepe joined the camp in Cairo as he can now select his starting 11 from 15 players.
“The three players arriving have pushed our numbers to 15 and it improves the quality of the team‚” a jubilant Notoane said on Thursday. “We appreciate the support from the clubs Mamelodi Sundowns [Makgalwa], Bloemfontein Celtic [Mpoto] and of course Tercious [Chippa United], who got a red card against Sundowns. But we’re happy they released him [Malepe] in any case because they could have kept him as agreed. At least it gives us positivity and inspiration ahead of our game against Zambia.”
The SA team have to finish in the top three in the tournament to book their ticket to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Notoane’s team face Zambia at 8pm (SA time) on Saturday in their first Group B match before meeting Ivory Coast on November 12 and Nigeria on November 15. Six more players are expected to land in Egypt on Monday‚ a day ahead of the Ivory Coast clash.
Egypt‚ Cameroon‚ Ghana and Mali are in Group A and will kick off the tournament with their matches on Friday.