24 March 2023 – South African under-23 men’s national team coach, David Notoane, is confident that his charges will secure a victory in the second leg of the CAF under-23 Olympic qualifier against Congo (Brazzaville) on Monday, 27 March 2023. 

Notoane’s charges shared the spoils with the Central African nation at Dobsonville stadium in Soweto in the first leg on Thursday afternoon after goals scored by Love Bissila Mabiala for the visitors and Thapelo Maseko for the home side.  The winner of the tie will book a spot at the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted in Morocco in June 2023. 

Notoane admitted that his team faces a huge task in the second leg but maintained they are prepared for it. 

“I think the game came out in a way that one expected, a team that sits, a team that plays out with the long pass. They changed the team the way that we changed the team, a little bit strong and aggressive in the midfield,” he said. 

“I think we started off very nicely and opened them up but we were a little bit anxious in the final third, not finding the right pass to connect and take advantage of the openings. We had to settle the nerves and anxiety by taking the lead.

“Midway in the game we started playing a different game and I told them during half-time that the team that is playing on the pitch is not the team I know, it did not look like the team that trained for two days to try and prepare. You could see we conceded a free goal from giving the goal away and not defending properly.

“I think the game was down to decision-making and we scored a very good goal with Mduduzi Shabalala coming in and making an immediate impact, which was part of the game plan to try and inject more pace into our tug, whether we were leading or we were behind but unfortunately we were behind. I think the 1-1 draw, we will take it. It is something we mentally prepared for but we have a big fight going into the second leg.

“We are a team that always scores goals and that gives me confidence to say we can go (to Congo) and turn the tie around. We scored two away goals in Togo, so who says we can’t go to Congo and score a goal. I think we are worthy of at least one goal, which could be enough to take us through ……… but I think we can get two or three.”

SA Under-23 Captain Keagan Johannes echoed the coach and believes his teammates have the talent to wrap up the tie and qualify for Morocco and beyond. 

“I think we started the game well,” he said. “I think throughout the first half we got a bit anxious like the coach said and we started playing a game that favored them, and obviously that was not part of our game plan. But in the second half we started playing a bit more and that gave us more momentum because we played the style that we know favored us.

“The result was obviously not what we wanted and we would have wanted to win at home. But it’s not over and we will go there, believe in what we have and in our talent. The guys are more than capable of going out there and winning.”