Sat Sep 23 00:21:12 SAST 2017

Dolly to captain SA when Junior Bafana face Neymar's Brazil

By Marc Strydom | 2016-08-03 11:02:56.0

Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Keagan Dolly. Picture credits: Gallo Images

Keagan Dolly‚ South Africa’s answer to Neymar when the men’s Olympic team meet Brazil in their opening game of Rio 2016 on Thursday night‚ has been named captain of the side.

The Mamelodi Sundowns winger will be looking to crown his best season with a starring performance on a global stage.

“Keagan has grown as a player in the past few months‚ and don’t forget he captained the side through the qualifiers in Senegal late last year‚" said SA U-23 coach Owen Da Gama.

Dolly has had practically no off-season having played a key role in Sundowns reaching the Caf Champions League semifinals‚ meaning he only joined his Olympic team-mates last week.

He said he needed his scoring run-out in SA’s 4-0 win against the Brazil police department on Saturday as crucial preparation for Thursday’s meeting with the hosts at Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia (9pm SA time‚ 4pm Brazil time).

“I’ve missed out on all the recent camps. I only came to Brazil with the team and I felt like I had missed out a lot‚” the Downs star said.

“Playing in that friendly helped me get back in sync with the team and just prepare well for the tournament. I felt that playing and getting used to the new players‚ and just getting used to everyone again‚ was crucial.

“My last three months have been quite busy. But it’s been good – I’ve won things with Sundowns‚ I’ve qualified for the Olympics. And I’m just happy to be part of the Olympic team.

“Everything’s going well on my side.”

This has been the most critical arrival year so far in Dolly’s career‚ transferring to Sundowns from Ajax Cape Town at the start of last season and going on to win a Premier League and Telkom Knockout double.

He made a Bafana Bafana breakthrough scoring two superb long-range goals in a 4-0 Africa Cup of Nations away thrashing of Gambia in Bakau in June.

Dolly’s emergence from a future Bafana star to a talent for the present comes on the back of a season at Downs where he found consistency having been a mercurial‚ injury-plagued winger with potential at Ajax.

Dolly was nominated for 2015-16’s Player’s Player and Player of the Season awards.

Now he can cap his best campaign with a career-defining performance in Brazil.

“For us it’s just to play our normal football. We shouldn’t respect our opponents too much‚” he said of the meeting against the hosts.

“We do know Brazil are a good team. But for us it’s to play the way we did when we qualified for the Olympics.

“And also to just focus on Brazil. Once we come through that‚ we can focus on our other games.”

Brazil are under pressure at the Olympics.

The country is desperate for their next generation to put in a good showing to start to put the humiliation of the astonishing 7-1 semifinal defeat against Germany as hosts of the 2014 World Cup behind them.

Given a choice by Barcelona between fielding Neymar at the Copa America in the USA last month‚ or the Olympics‚ they opted for the latter.

But the Selecao’s first round exit at the Copa‚ resulting in the sacking of coach Dunga‚ has increased the pressure on Brazil to perform at Rio 2016.

After meeting Brazil‚ SA will Denmark‚ also in Brasilia‚ on Sunday then Iraq in Sao Paulo on Wednesday (August 10).