SA Olympic side begin preps

The South African U-23 team are taking the forthcoming Rio 2016 Olympic showdown against Zimbabwe so seriously that they have already started preparations, with two international friendly matches against Egypt planned for this weekend.

Zimbabwe’s own preparations on the other hand, are likely to start just a few days before the first leg, scheduled for Harare on July 19.

The return leg will be played in South Africa two weeks later.

South Africa U-23 coach, Owen Da Gama, expressed hope this week that his side would be able to play with cohesion by the time the clashes against Zimbabwe get underway.

The winner of the matches between Zimbabwe and South Africa will qualify for the eight-team Caf U-23 Championships finals, set for Senegal in December, from where the top three teams will earn automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics.

“During the All Africa Games qualifiers many of the players were new to the national team set-up,” Da Gama told the South African media.

“We also did not have enough time to combine as a team. This time we want to ensure that come July when we play our first round of Olympic qualifiers our players know each other inside out.”

Zimbabwe, however, appear to enjoy a distinct advantage on paper, with most of the names in Da Gama’s squad being either fringe players in the Absa Premiership or attached to lower Division sides.

But Zimbabwe coach Calisto Pasuwa will face a mammoth task getting his top players in camp to commence preparations. There is little doubt though about the abundant talent in this age group in the Castle Lager Premiership. Names like Tino Kadewere, Walter Musona, Wisdom Mutasa, Tatenda Mukuruva, Nqobizitha Masuku and Ronald Pfumbidzai are already making waves in the local top-flight league.

Zimbabwe coach Calisto Pasuwa
Zimbabwe coach Calisto Pasuwa

Pasuwa should also welcome the resurgence of Highlanders midfield sensation, King Nadolo, who is slowly regaining his form and fitness, after injury had disrupted his momentum during the last few months.

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