U-23 Afcon draw brings cheer to skipper Tercious Malepe

SA Under-23 skipper Tercious Malepe has reacted to the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) draw with glee.

The David Notoane-coached side have been drawn with Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Zambia in Group B of this tournament, hosted by Egypt from November 8-22.

The top three finishers will represent Africa at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

"I do not think we will struggle. I can say that it's an easy draw because we have a very good bunch of players," said 22-year-old Malepe.

"We have to prepare ourselves well, especially mentally. I believe we can achieve our goal of reaching the final. The current crop of players has been together for a long time, so there's that understanding among us as players."

Hosts Egypt are in Group A alongside Mali, Ghana and Cameroon. Malepe said Group A is somewhat of a group of death, registering his relief that they avoided this pool.

"No one wants to play the hosts. I am happy that we are not in Group A.

All of the four teams in Group A have equal strengths, so it's not a group you would like to be in."

The Chippa United utility man isn't fazed by Nigeria's general dominance over SA in football. "Yes Nigeria give SA a tough time, but with good preparation we can beat them.''

Notoane's troops book their spot at the U-23 Afcon by making light work of Zimbabwe in the final round of qualifiers, with a 5-0 aggregate win.

SA, Nigeria and hosts Egypt are the only teams who've never missed this eight-nation competition, since its inception in 2011.

Should Notoane's men qualify for the Olympics, it'll be their third appearance, having participated at the 2000 Sydney, Australia edition and in Rio, Brazil in 2016.

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