Owen da Gama: SA U-23 squad taking shape ahead of Rio Olympics

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The Olympic team were held to a 1-1 draw in a practice match against last season’s Absa Premiership runners-up Bidvest Wits on Monday, after beating Mamelodi Sundowns reserves 3-1 last week Friday.

Da Gama says the matches have provided a good opportunity for the technical staff to test the versatility of his squad, and believes they are “taking shape” ahead of their tournament opener against hosts Brazil on August 4.

“They’re taking shape very well hey… Friday we played Sundowns, today we played Wits – I mean top club, you know,” says the Bafana Bafana assistant coach.

“It was nice [for us to see] with the versatility of the players – how we could shift them around to different positions and I think that’s going to help us with such a small squad of 18. It will certainly help us.

“When you have 18 players you need a lot of versatility; we’ve got eight players who can play more than two positions so that’s quite satisfying so far.”

The current squad consists of 20 players, which includes overage duo Itumeleng Khune and Erick Mathoho as well as the four reserve players, while Lille striker Lebo Mothiba and Mamelodi Sundowns winger Keagan Dolly are set to arrive for duty at a later stage.

“Keagan is arriving on Wednesday; they [Sundowns] are flying from Egypt on Tuesday so we can expect him in camp on Wednesday. Lebo is only arriving on the 27th, which is the unfortunate thing,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Da Gama has approved of Khune and Mathoho’s club commitments in the Carling Black Label Champion Cup pre-season friendly, saying they have to mutually respect Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates for releasing players for the Summer Games.

“As you know the Chiefs players will only be joining us on the 31st because they’ve got to play in that Carling Cup match. It’s important, otherwise we’ll have a riot there [laughs].

“We respect that, I mean, at the end of the day I think the PSL has respected us, Chiefs have respected us, Pirates, all the teams so it’s also good that we respect them.

“This is a big match in South African football so it’s something that we’ve agreed upon and we’re quite happy,” ‘ODG’ concludes.

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