Johannesburg - South Africa will have their second chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games when they meet hosts Senegal in the third-place playoff at the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday evening.
The teams will meet in a repeat of the tournament’s opening match at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar, with kick-off set for 6pm CAT.
Both Senegal and SA missed out on the chance to secure an automatic qualification for the Games in Rio by losing their semifinals to Nigeria and Algeria respectively.
The defeat was a particular blow to the host nation, who were perhaps unlucky to lose to the ‘Dream Team’ of Nigeria.
Nonetheless, coach Serigne Saliou Dia remains upbeat and is determined to see his side make it to the Olympics.
“We’re still close to reaching our goal which is to qualify for Rio. I have to congratulate the boys. They played well but we were not lucky at all. We created so many chances but were not efficient in converting them,” he said in the wake of the loss to Nigeria.
“The third-place match will be a second chance for us to qualify for the Olympics because that is our objective.”
As for South Africa’s Owen da Gama, he has spoken of the need to lift his team’s morale after they were outplayed by Algeria in their semifinal, but he too believes that Rio is within their reach.
“The players understand what happened today on the field, I just have to lift their morale because we only have one chance left now,” explained da Gama.
“Senegal is a good team, but I believe we stand a good chance of still qualifying for Rio. We will regroup after this setback.”
When the teams met in the opening match of the tournament, Senegal claimed a comfortable 3-1 victory.