Cape Town - South African Under-23 Men’s National Team defender Rivaldo Coetzee believes his department could play a key role when they come up against Algeria on Wednesday at Stade Leopold Senghor in Dakar, Senegal
The two nations meet in the semifinal of the CAF Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Kick-off is at 20:30.
Coetzee and fellow defenders had to keep a marauding Tunisia strike force at bay in the last match of this competition, which South Africa won 1-0 – thanks to a late Menzi Masuku goal.
"It’s always important to keep a clean sheet, it means you have done your job well for the 90 minutes,” said Coetzee.
"And going into the Algeria game we need to be compact again like we were against Tunisia and make sure we don’t concede, and then we have a chance of winning the game because in every match we create chances. We just need to convert those chances and put them under pressure with an early goal.
The Ajax Cape Town player says they had to turn things around after losing the first match of the tournament.
"In the first game we conceded two early goals and that’s what killed us - it’s always difficult for a team to come from behind but as the tournament progressed we started to play the football that we know.
"In the first game we focused too much on our opponents (Senegal) and the last two games we focused on us and our play, and the guys realised what potential we have and what we can do when we play our football, and that has helped us get two good results in the last two games,” added Coetzee.
"As long as we have the ball in possession, no team can stop us no matter how big they are physically because we have very quick and mobile players who are also skillful.
"So if we can get a one on one with their defenders or we play the ball behind them, with the pace we have we can finish them off. We know we are not physically that big so we don’t need to go into physical battles, we just need to keep the ball moving until we get into good spaces and we can get something out of that."
Having played North African opposition before, Coetzee and company know what to expect against Algeria.
"It’s a big game for us - winning against Algeria already puts us in Rio so we have to make it easy for ourselves and win the game.
"The important thing for us is to play our normal football and not get too much ahead of ourselves because we know it’s a big stage and we know what a win can do for us.
"We just need to go out there and work hard because the North Africans don’t have the talent that we have but they put in the hard work, and sometimes that is what’s key,” said Coetzee.
"Having played their kind before mean much, come tomorrow it will be totally different. This is a tournament, they know what’s at stake so they will come out with all guns blazing but we have prepared very well and the guys are up for it."
At only 19 years of age, Coetzee is the most experienced player in the team as he also plays for Bafana Bafana, and had some word of advice to his teammates.
“I know how difficult it is to go into the lead or trail - that lapse of concentration can cost you the whole tournament. And that’s what happened to us at Afcon with Bafana Bafana. We were leading all our games and come second half then we lose, so it will be important for us to keep the focus and make sure we don’t concede any silly goals,” concluded Coetzee.
Meanwhile Gift Motupa managed to complete training on Monday, December 7 without any discomfort. He got a knock on his ankle in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia on Friday, December 4 and has been under medical observation. He will be still be monitored at the squad final training (on Tuesday, December 8).
Nigeria will face Senegal in the other semifinal also Wednesday, December 9 at Stade Leopold Senghor.