Head coach of the South African Men’s u23 National Team Owen da Gama believes all is not lost after his side went down 3-1 to Senegal in the opening match of the CAF u23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Head coach of the South African Men’s u23 National Team Owen da Gama believes all is not lost after his side went down 3-1 to Senegal in the opening match of the CAF u23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

The clash took place on Saturday, 28 November at the Leopold Senghor Stadium in Dakar.

“There is no excuse, we all have to shoulder the blame. At the end of the day we should have taken our chances. People are saying we played well but then again you don’t get points for playing good football. Unfortunately on the day some players did not pitch up which had a massive influence on the game and impacted on the rest of the team.” said Da Gama.

“We take the loss as a team, just like we have taken wins as a team. What we don’t need now is the blame game or finger pointing. We have to go back and see what mistakes we did and rectify them. It just wasn’t our day.”

South Africa’s next opponent in the tournament is Zambia who lost 2-1 to Tunisia. The two face off on Tuesday, 1 December at the Leopold Senghor Stadium. Kickoff is at 17h00 SA time.

“We are very disappointed with the outcome, and I know the country is disappointed too so we share the feeling, but we will bounce back. We have said before the start of the tournament that all the games are a must win if we want to reach the top – Tuesday’s clash against Zambia is no different. The game against Senegal was also a must win but it is behind us now we have to move on.” added Da Gama.

“Tunisia is playing Senegal in the other match and hopefully there is a draw there to give us a fighting chance. If Senegal or Tunisia win they are through, but if there is a draw and we win it will go down the wire. Fortunately our fate is still in our hands.”

Da Gama believes his charges had a good chance of winning the match.

“I think we started very well, took control of the game. We created chances but then we didn’t score and it motivated them (Senegal) to come at us and they found gaps in our defence. They got a penalty, which was a clear penalty there is no argument about that. A mistake from one of our midfielders and they punished us again,” said the SA u23 head coach.

“It was always going to be uphill after those two goals but the boys soldiered on and we managed to pull one back. There really looked like there was a possibility of another goal from us but when Farmer got injured we were left exposed.”

After the opening games in Group A, Senegal are top of the table but tied on three points with Tunisia – the hosts lead the group due to goal difference. Zambia is third and South Africa is at the foot of the table – both have no points. Meanwhile the Orlando Pirates duo of Gift Motupa and Menzi Masuku are expected in Dakar on Monday, 30 November.

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