Having played in the Olympic Games in 2000, Matthew Booth has experience under his belt that many would look up to. Wearing the South African badge is what Booth takes pride in. He spoke exclusively to Briefly News about the expectations for the U/23 team at the Olympics.
The expectations for the South African U/23 football team in the Olympics are high. It's a squad made up of the most talented players in their age group and Mzansi will be waiting for the boys to bring back a gold medal.
Speaking exclusively to Briefly News, former Bafana Bafana player Matthew Booth thinks that the players have the depth needed to bring positive results. Booth has experience playing for the U/23s himself and was in the Olympic team back in 2000, serving as the captain.
"I certainly believe that they have a talented squad and it's a bit of an ask for them to go all the way for gold but it would be fantastic for them to get out of the group stages and into the knockouts," said Booth.
The former central defender thinks that it would be a great achievement for the current U/23 squad to do better than the squads who went to the Olympics before.
"It starts with Japan, who we played in 2000 in our first game. We made two silly defensive blunders and had most of the possession, missing many opportunities in that game. Hopefully they don't make the same mistakes," Booth told Briefly News.
Booth believes that South Africa has a bit of an advantage because the players in the squad play regularly in the PSL. He also says that a lot of players have come away from the season on good form.
"They are strong in their goalkeeping department, with Mondli Mpoto, Sifiso Mlungwana and Ronwen Williams. Very very solid. I don't see any reason why that can't get out of the group," he said.
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Even so, Matthew Booth stresses how important the first fixture against Japan will be. He also touched on how the head coach David Notoane has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride in his role.
"With Covid and friendlies being cancelled, players apparently have been failing in-house drug tests and players being sent back with health problems. It hasn't been an easy ride leading up to the Olympics," said Booth.
With that being said, Booth thinks that these challenges are sometimes the reason for South African teams performing at their best, so he's hoping that the U/23 team can put up a good performance in the Olympics.
"My experience in 2000 was unbelievable. The journey was a six-year journey, culminating in qualifying for Sydney. We had a fantastic squad and we knew each other well because of those six years."
"We had a number of players who were playing regularly in Europe and the rest of us were playing regularly in the PSL. It's the second most popular sporting event in the world. Realistically we only get one chance to participate in the Olympics," he said.
Booth is very proud of the fact that he has the "OLY" next to his name and how people still talk about how SA beat a Brazil team that was led by Ronaldinho 3-1. He hopes that the squad representing SA in Tokyo will be one that people talk about for a long time coming.
Two Kaizer Chiefs players joined the SA U/23 team to go to the Olympics
Briefly News previously reported that at lunchtime on Sunday, Kaizer Chiefs defender Reeve Frosler and midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo left their Amakhosi teammates in Casablanca, Morocco, on their journey to Tokyo.
The duo flew via Istanbul, Turkey, to join the South African under-23 team, which was already in Japan for the Olympic Games. They arrived at 7:20 pm on Monday evening, Tokyo time, with coach David Notoane and the rest of the group.
Despite the Chiefs' loss to Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final in Casablanca, Ngcobo remains positive and excited to represent South Africa in the Games, according to the Kaizer Chiefs website.
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Source: Briefly News