24 November 2019 – With eight months to go before the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 kicks off, Africa now knows which three sides will be representing it in Japan. Held in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations saw Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa claim the three qualifying places for the Games.
FIFA.com rounds up the tournament, which ended with the hosts being crowned African champions.
CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations
Dates: 8-22 November
Venue: Cairo, Egypt
Final standings: 1. Egypt; 2. Côte d’Ivoire; 3. South Africa
Participants: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia
Cheered on by the home fans, Egypt won Group A with three wins out of three. Ramadan Sobhi stood tall as the side’s leader, while attacking spearhead Mostafa Mohamed helped himself to four goals. Not content with scoring all his side’s goals in their opening two matches – a 1-0 defeat of Mali and a 2-1 win over Cameroon – Mohamed also struck the opener in an exciting 3-2 victory over Ghana. Facing South Africa in the semi-finals, Shawky Gharib’s men had to wait until the hour mark before taking the lead through a Sobhi penalty. Though they eventually ran out 3-0 winners, the scoreline flattered them somewhat. Taking on the Ivorians in the final, played in an electric atmosphere at the Cairo International Stadium, the Egyptians went ahead through Karim El Eraki only for Aboubacar Doumbia to equalise in the final minute. Not to be denied, Egypt struck late on in extra time to secure the African title, the all-important goal coming from than man Sobhi.
Côte d’Ivoire had to work harder to top Group B. After opening up with a 1-0 win against defending champions Nigeria, they were beaten by the South Africans and need a late goal to see off Zambia 1-0. A Yousouf Dao brace looked set to give the Elephants victory over Ghana in the semis, but Evans Mensah struck late to take the game to penalties. It was then that goalkeeper Ira Tape Eliezer stood tall to take the Ivorians into the final, and though the Egyptians would deny them the title, their ticket to Tokyo was secure. What made their runners-up spot all the more impressive was the fact that coach Haidara Soualhio had to do without two key players in the knockout phase: Genoa forward Christian Kouame, who picked up a serious injury, and midfielder Ibrahim Sangare, recalled by his club, Toulouse.
As for South Africa, they were made to sweat in getting out of their group. Held to a goalless draw by Zambia in their opener, the Bafana Bafana beat Côte d’Ivoire 1-0 and then had to avoid defeat against Nigeria, a task they achieved with a 0-0 draw. The South Africans then held out for an hour against Egypt in the semi-final before conceding three in the last 30 minutes. Ghana were their opponents in the match for third place, with the final Olympic qualifying place up for grabs. Twice David Notoane’s side took the lead and twice they were pegged back before emerging 6-5 winners from a suspenseful penalty shootout.
Did you know?
Nigeria and Cameroon’s elimination in the group phase and Ghana’s defeat in the match for third place meant that the only three African sides to have won Olympic medals would not be making the trip to Tokyo. The Black Meteors took bronze at Barcelona 1992, while the Olympic Eagles and the Indomitable Lions claimed gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 respectively.
South Africa: 3 (2000, 2016, 2020)
Côte d’Ivoire: 2 (2008, 2020)
Egypt: 12 (1920, 1924, 1928, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1960, 1964, 1984, 1992, 2012, 2020)