By Thomas Kwenaite


PHAKAMANIAfter all has been said and done, it now boils down to the South African national U-23 team adopting a high level of concentration and a sharpness that has been evident in glimpses during this tournament if they hope to bag the last remaining spot reserved for contestants from Africa to the Rio Olympic Games.


None of the South African strikers are tall enough, yet their defenders have applied a suicidal approach by hoofing every ball into the air in a system that literally defied logic considering that they are most skillful squad ever assembled and yet they seem to be scared to impose their so-called vaunted township kasi flavor in the tournament.


They have looked good whenever they engaged in their one-touch football and sometimes taking on their opponents. Yet when the situation demanded that they maintain level heads, they have lost all their capacity to think and act out of the box by engaging in panic mode, hoofing the ball up-field and clearly played into the hands and heads of their tall opponents.


Agreed they lost to the host 3-1 in the opening match. But there was nothing special about this Senegalese team and they actually shaded the percentages when they resorted to their quick passing game where winger Phakamani Mahlambi was a constant menace with his pace.


Keagan Dolly has in the past displayed the ability to carry the team on his broad shoulders. This is a game that will define whether this group of players are capable of rising above adversity and re-write the South African history books as far as the Olympic games are concerned.


Or they can continue in their disastrous attitude of lacking fire in their bellies, just honor the fixture and at the end of the game, pack their bags and return home a disgraced lot with their tails between their legs. They have a choice to make on Saturday.


South Africans believe in these boys. We know them and we are aware of their qualities and what they are capable of achieving. But they have to switch on and stay focused for the duration of the game and stop leaking such soft goals even kindergarten children would be embarrassed.


All of them have played at the highest level of South African football and none can claim to have no experience at the highest level. In short, there are no excuses and they simply have to go out there and deliver to the best of their abilities, otherwise they will never get another chance to play in the Olympics in their lifetime.


The PSL for a change suspended their programme to allow coach Owen da Gama to select the best available players. Yet even with this kind of support, South Africa will have no one but themselves to blame if they fail to clinch the last remaining spot reserved for Rio next year after both Algeria and Nigeria snatched the two positions.




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