Owen da Gama and his U23 squad are aware that they have their work cut out when they take on hosts Zimbabwe in a crucial Olympic qualifier at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
Owen da Gama and his U23 squad are aware that they have their work cut out when they take on hosts Zimbabwe in a crucial Olympic qualifier at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday (19 July 2015) afternoon. The match kicks off at 15h00.
Sunday’s match coincides here with the remembrance of the tragic incident 15 years ago when 13 people lost their lives during a stampede at the National Sports Stadium during a FIFA World Cup match between Bafana Bafana and Zimbabwe.
The stampede was triggered by shocked Zimbabwean fans after Delron Buckley had given South Africa a 2-0 lead in the dying minutes of the game.
And according to many Zimbabwean critics here, it is imperative for Zimbabwe to avenge for that defeat in tomorrow’s vital encounter.
However, Da Gama said the hype given to this first leg encounter must spur his boys to greater heights.
“We are not worried about the talk being given to this encounter. I have told my boys to get on with their work and make South Africa proud. This is a great game for the boys. They know a good campaign will shape their careers,” he said.
Regardless of the pressure, Da Gama whose team trained at the match venue on Friday soon after arriving in Harare and rounded up their preparations with another session at the match venue on Saturday said apart from going for the positive result, they would want to put up an entertaining show.
“We are bracing for a competitive match because Zimbabwe are not going to lie down. We have our game plan which we have kept a closely guarded secret from our opponents and will unleash it tomorrow.
“We are very positive and fired up for this encounter and as I have always said, we are looking forward to being part of Rio 2016 Olympic Games. That is why we are here. We are on a mission and that mission will culminate in this squad travelling to Rio next year.”
Temperatures in Harare, popularly known as the Sunshine City are hovering around 26 degrees Celcius and mostly pick up at around 15h00.
However, Da Gama said weather conditions were favorable to all teams.
The U23 are expected to return home on Monday morning to begin preparations for the second leg.
U23 Squad in Harare, Zimbabwe
Goalkeepers: Ricardo Goss, Jordi February
Defenders: Kwanda Mngonyama, Tshepo Rikhotso, Thabo Makhele, Zitha Macheke, Gino Moeketsi, Tebogo Moerane, Siyabonga Zulu
Midfielders: Abbubakar Mobara, Ayabulela Konqoba, Motjeka Madisha, Keegan Dolly, Maphosa Modiba
Strikers: Simphiwe Kambule, Dumisani Zuma, Siphelele Nthsangase, Siphamandla Dlamini