Notoane oozes belief despite U23 setbacks

Depleted squad face Egypt over two friendlies

10 June 2021 - 07:00
By sihle ndebele AND Sihle Ndebele
David Notoane (Coach) during the South African Olympic Soccer Team media briefing.
Image: Lee Warren David Notoane (Coach) during the South African Olympic Soccer Team media briefing.

From extensive withdrawals of players due to Covid-19 to the searing heat in Cairo, SA Under-23 have endured tough times ahead of their two-legged international friendly against fellow Olympics finalist Egypt.

The first clash is today and the second one will take place on Sunday. Both games are billed for Cairo at 7pm. SA and Egypt aim to use these friendlies to prepare for the Olympics, to be hosted in Tokyo in Japan from July 23 until August 8.

SA coach David Notoane has given an uninspiring report card ahead of the two friendlies against the north Africans. SA left the country with a depleted squad after a number of players who were been called-up contracted Covid-19. High temperatures in Cairo have also complicated things for Notoane and his charges, especially as they come from SA, where temperatures have dropped immensely over the past few days.

“From a squad of 25, we’re now down to 21. Of course, it’s very, very hot here in Egypt. In terms of our preparations, things have been very, very difficult for us. We left SA with almost three quarters of the players we’d called up. We had a few withdrawals due to Covid-19,’’ said Notoane yesterday.

That some of the European-based players have been inactive after the conclusion of their leagues has also given Notoane a headache ahead of the friendlies against Egypt.

“The other challenge we have is that some of the players had already been in the off season for the last week and a half, and they have been training on their own, which is different to training in a team environment,’’ said Notoane.

“We have to dust them off as quick as possible and integrate them into the two-game series against Egypt, without compromising their long-term availability through injuries, so it’s a very difficult camp.’’

As difficult as it is, Notoane conveyed he still had faith in the troops that are available. “We’ll just go through the two games with these players that are at our disposal at this point in time. They will give their all,’’ said the SA coach.