Monday Nov 25, 2019. 14:00
Egypt will lead Africa’s charge at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan after they were crowned Africa U23 Cup of Nations champions on Friday evening.
The Pharaohs beat Ivory Coast 2-1 in Cairo thanks to an extra-time goal from Player of the Tournament, Ramadan Sobhi.
Sobhi, who is on-loan at Al Ahly after struggling for game time in the English Premier League, has seemingly regained his confidence as he helped ease the pain left behind by the senior national team following their 2019 Afcon Round of 16 exit, at the very same Cairo International Stadium earlier this year.
“The most important thing is that we played like men and we’re happy that we brought joy to the Egyptian fans,” Sobhi told Beinsports TV channel.
“It’s the first trophy that I lift as a captain and it feels different.
“We overcame the pressure and qualified. The first team’s disqualification put a lot of pressure on us and the fans didn’t support us that much at the start of the tournament but we gained their confidence and made them happy,” he concluded.
Sobhi scored three goals and assisted two as Egypt make their return to the Olympic Games, having missed out on qualification for the 2016 showpiece in Brazil.
Joining Egypt and Ivory Coast in Tokyo next year will be South Africa. David Notoane’s troops booked their place at next year’s world showpiece with a 6-5 penalty shootout win over Ghana, to take up the third and final place up for grabs.
South Africa U23’s will compete at the Olympics for the third time, having qualified previously for the 2000 and 2016 Games in Australia and Brazil respectively.
Notoane now hopes to get the necessary support from the club sides as South Africa aim to progress past the group stages for the very first time.
“We have to go back to the drawing board and prepare now for the bigger stage in the Olympic tournament in Tokyo, which comes in the period of July to August,” he said.
“There is challenges, of course, there is a domestic league that is taking place, unlike in Egypt where the FA stops the professional league games from continuing.
“So if I check my calendar there is only one FIFA break so I hope that I will get support from the professional clubs to make sure that there is a lot of preparation matches and that we have the players available because our league will only end in May, so that is the big headache I am facing,” Notoane concluded.
The 2020 Olympic Games will start on the 24th of July and end on the 9th of August.