South Africa finished third at the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations, earning the right to compete in their second consecutive Olympic Games. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, South Africa emerged from the group with a defeat and two draws in three games.
National team coach David Naughton will be hoping for a better performance from the Olympians in Japan, but he will have to rely on a roster of players from local championships little known to the global football audience. However, even a single win could allow South African players to gain notoriety, which could end up giving some of them a ticket to European football.
France national team
The reigning World Cup champions hope that the Tokyo Olympics will unlock the next great generation of French talent. The squad is impressively well-staffed with French Ligue 1 players, although it will not include PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, 22, who was disappointingly left the French national team during last week’s Euro 2020.
Coach Sylvain Ripaul, who led France to the semi-finals of the 2019 U-21 European Championship and played qualifying games against the French for the Olympics, has only called up three players to the Olympic team who have been to Euro 2020.
With a gold medal in Japan, France could become the sixth country with more than one men’s Olympic title, having won the previous gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
FRENCH VS SOUTH AFRICA
In the first round, France blew out Mexico with no options, and today barely bounced back from a defeat to South Africa. This is not a team; there is no chemistry between the players. As long as the opponent stays focused, the French can’t create anything. Gignac tries desperately to open up for passes, but his partners help him terribly.
At the same time, the French defenders again put on a clownish show at their own goal. The favourites miraculously kept the scoreline level until half-time as Touzar hit Kodisang inside an own net – Singh failed to convert the spot-kick. However, France did get their way and brought a goal when Michelin hilariously intercepted a pass from deep and fed a one-on-one for Kodisang.
This moment was one of many, South Africa played much better. Wingers Kodisang and Singh looked like gods against the French defence – they had 70% good dribbling on two. The boys literally drove the group favourite. Kodisang ripped down the flank and set up the second goal, while Mokoena scored the third with a gorgeous shot under the crossbar.
Gignac punished the Africans for slacking off
South Africa were well on their way to victory. The problem with the team was that after each goal they relaxed and lost concentration. As a consequence, France were quick to respond each time. Gignac scored three times. The captain scored the first two goals in his usual centre-forward style, breaking between defenders under passes.
Andre-Pierre netted his hat-trick from a penalty spot, and in the penalty shoot-out he assisted Savannier on his fourth – and winning – goal. France earned standard after standard and eventually forced the Africans into mistakes. Minaya defender Tercios Malepe, who led South Africa with the captain’s armband, also contributed to the disappointing defeat.
France snatched the win after conceding three times. “Le Bleu” could be said to have robbed their opponents, who had played better for most of the match, scored three beautiful goals and in the final seconds could have set up a fourth! Fleurs missed the ball from just outside the box. France got 3 points and kept their chances of making the play-offs, but they should not be in the decisive games at the Olympics.