Egypt eye semis place at Africa U23 Championship

By Nick CavellBBC Sport, Morocco
Egyptian players celebrate
Egypt's U23 players fought to defeat Gabon at the African Under-23 Championship

Egypt can guarantee themselves a place in the semi-finals of the African Olympic qualifiers if they beat Ivory Coast in their second Group B game in Marrakesh on Wednesday.

Before that game, Gabon will be looking for their first point as they take on South Africa in the continent's first ever Under-23 Championship.

The Egyptians won their opening game 1-0 over Gabon while it was 1-1 between Ivory Coast and South Africa in the most entertaining encounter of the tournament so far.

If Egypt do make it to the last four it also guarantees them at least a play-off game to reach the Olympics in London next year.

South Africa's squad of entirely local-based players put on a great team display as they held on to earn a draw against Ivory Coast in their first game.

Amaglug-glug, as South Africa's U23 side are known, will have to play without Thami Sangweni who is suspended for the game after his red card for two bookings against Ivory Coast.

The medical team have decided that defender Erick Mathoho should be rested for the match.

"Mathoho came into the camp with injury doubts, and we are happy that he played the full match on Sunday against Cote d'Ivoire. We are treating him twice a day as a precaution, but will need to rest him for the Wednesday match," team doctor Desmond Lamula said.

The medical team has also attended to Sameehg Doutie, Gladwin Shitolo, Ace Bhengu, goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo and Sibusiso Mxoyana.

"These players sustained minor knocks in our opening match on Sunday, we are currently treating them because we don't want to take anything for granted," he added.

Coach Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba says the team has prepared well for the crucial Gabon clash.

"We have just finished our last training session before the encounter with Gabon, everything has gone well except for this unfortunate situation with Mathoho," he said.

"The doctors are working on him and we hope he will recover on time for our final group stages match against Egypt.

"We have reshuffled the team at the back and prepared them well to keep a solid defence."

While Gabon were not overwhelmed by Egypt they will need to be better with their final pass if they are to really threaten South Africa.

Alexander Ndoumbou's corners proved dangerous for Gabon in the final minutes but they need him to do same from open play to pose a threat.

Ivory Coast will count themselves unlucky not to have got all three points in their opener with South Africa after having a man advantage for much of the second-half and having a penalty saved.

Henri Georges Griffiths looked dangerous when he came on as subsitute even before he scored the late equaliser.

In defence they will have to improve as Phumelele 'Ace' Bhengu was unopposed when he headed home the South African goal.

Egypt are another team that need to improve in the final third of the pitch if they are to score more goals.

The football hopes of a nation rest on Hany Ramzy's side after the senior national side failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and will not be defending their title in January.

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