SA U-23s will resist playing for a draw against Nigeria‚ says Notoane

15 November 2019 - 11:13 By Nick Said
Head coach of the South African Olympic Team, David Notoane during the South Africa U/23 media open day at Milpark Garden Court Hotel on September 05, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Head coach of the South African Olympic Team, David Notoane during the South Africa U/23 media open day at Milpark Garden Court Hotel on September 05, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Coach David Notoane says it will be a battle between a physical Nigeria and his more technically gifted South Africa when the teams clash in a winner-takes-all Group B encounter at the Africa Under-23 Cup of Nations on Friday night.

South Africa need just a point at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo (kickoff 8pm) to advance to the semifinals‚ while a defeat could also see them also advance if Zambia beat Ivory Coast in the other game that will be played simultaneously in the Egyptian capital.

But Notoane will only be thinking of a win‚ or at the very least draw‚ as he seeks a place in the knockout stages.

After a 1-0 opening loss to the ivory Coast‚ Nigeria bounced back to beat Zambia 3-1 in their second fixture.

“Nigeria played differently against Ivory Coast and Zambia. They had a different approach when they became desperate [to win]. They put long balls into the striker – it is not the type of football that we like‚” Notoane said.

“Nigeria are very physical‚ but we will use our talent. We know the rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria.

“The main thing for us is to be mentally strong and use our technical speed to give them problems. We will take the game to Nigeria‚ I can assure you of that.”

South Africa sit on top of their pool with no goals conceded in their two games and Notoane has urged his side not to waste the good work they have put in so far.

“After the game against Ivory Coast‚ we are on top of the group‚ which is where we wanted to be going into the last game against Nigeria‚” he said.

“The group is open‚ anyone can go through‚ anyone can go home. We will be thoroughly prepared – we know what we are up against in Nigeria‚ we know what we have to do.

“We always go into every game to get three points‚ but it has also always been our mentality that we try to take something out of every game. We took one point against Zambia‚ three against Ivory Coast.

“Whether we take one or three now will depend on the tactics‚ our strength and the strength of Nigeria. I would like to believe the pressure is more on Nigeria to come and get the result.”

Notoane expects a tight game with potentially few chances‚ and it could take a moment of magic to win the game‚ as it did against the Ivorians when Teboho Mokoena’s stunning free-kick sealed the victory in their last pool game.

“When we went into the game against Ivory Coast‚ I mentioned that if you analyse international football‚ games are very tight‚ preparation time is less‚ so the details for the game become important.

“You will rely on the individual quality of the players‚ which was missing against Zambia. We do not play defensive football‚ but in a tournament you cannot be naïve and play an open‚ attacking game.

“Most of the teams sit deep and rely on the transition‚ you have to find a good balance between attacking football and an organised structure of the team. I am a coach who likes to go into games looking for the win and not to play for the draw.

“Even if we need a draw‚ we play on the offensive and I don’t think that we have been at our best of what we are capable of playing.

“The players know it‚ but in a tournament like this your play can only improve because now you have spent seven‚ eight‚ nine days together.”

If South Africa finish in the top three in Egypt they will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games‚ but Notoane is targeting the gold medal and to lift the trophy.

“We have two targets‚ to qualify for the Olympics and to win the tournament. We are a team who are capable of going all the way in the final.”