After qualifying from the group stage in style with maximum points, hosts Egypt are looking to secure their place in next year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 when they face South Africa in the Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt 2019 semi-final tonight at the Cairo International Stadium.
It will be a repeat to a recent memory that the Egyptians need to forget. Last July, hosts Egypt crashed out of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 at home, losing to South Africa 1-0 when Thembinkosi Lorch scored late to send his side to the quarterfinals, leaving the hosts shocked.
Three wins from as many games saw The Olympic Pharaohs topping Group A while the public enthusiasm was growing around them every day. A 1-0 opening victory over Mali was followed by an exciting comeback that saw them overtaking Ghana 3-2 in the last minutes. That was followed by a 2-1 victory over Cameroon in the final group game.
Meanwhile South Africa – who are the only survivor from Africa’s representatives in the latest Olympics in Rio 2016 – reached the semifinals in a different style. Yet to concede any goal, they just scored once but that was enough to see them defeating Cote d’Ivoire 1-0.
Coupled with two goalless draws against neighbors Zambia and holders Nigeria, that was enough to see them finishing Group B in second place and continue their run with a second successive appearance in the Olympics at stake.
Both sides clashed in the maiden U-23 AFCON in Morocco 2011, when Egypt won 2-0 on their way to a third place finish. They met friendly twice last month, Egypt won 1-0 and they drew 1-1.
Shawky Gharib (Coach, Egypt)
We did not qualify for the Olympics yet. We still have to work hard to achieve our targets. South Africa is a very strong team and we know them well. Egypt team is under pressure since Day 1 and it won’t end until we secure the Olympics ticket. Failing on the senior AFCON level might be an extra pressure, but the supporters were amazing till now and I need them to continue what they started. This generation is unique and I believe they will achieve something for themselves and their country.
David Notoane (Coach, South Africa)
We are inspired by our senior team (Bafana Bafana) who defeated Egypt at home at the 2019 AFCON earlier this year. We know well how strong the Egyptians are, but we also know how to deal with them.
Final preparations underway at the Guard Hotel's training grounds leading up to SA Under-23's big #TotalAFCONU23 semi-final tie against Egypt tomorrow at Cairo Stadium.— SAFA.net (@SAFA_net) November 18, 2019
The match will kick-off at 20h00.?? @CAF_Online pic.twitter.com/ByqbRAnpcj