Senegal vie with Egypt for Africa's final Olympic berth

By Nick CavellBBC Sport, Marrakesh
Egypt's Under-23 team
Egypt's Under-23 side have qualified for more Olympic Games than any other African side, while Senegal's men have never contested an Olympic finals

It does not happen very often but Saturday's clash between Egypt and Senegal is a third-place play-off with the utmost significance.

It is arguably even more important than the final between hosts Morocco and Gabon later in the day, since the team finishing third grabs the last direct place at next year's Olympics.

The ongoing Olympic qualifying tournament in Morocco is also doubling as Africa's inaugural Under-23 Championships.

On Saturday, both the Egyptians and the Senegalese will need to lift themselves from the disappointment of losing semi-finals they will have felt they could - and should - have won.

And despite knowing that defeat in Marrakesh will leave one final chance, in a play-off against an Asian side next March, both sides will be keen to book their tickets to London now.

Since the two teams played out two friendly draws (0-0 and 1-1) in the build-up to this tournament, they know each other well.

Egypt coach Hany Ramzy says that while he will take a look at Senegal's tactics, his biggest task is to lift his team for Saturday's game after the 3-2 defeat to Morocco.

"We already know Senegal well so the most important thing is to refresh the players mentally and give them the power to play against a team as good as Senegal," he told BBC Sport.

Ramzy's side has steadily improved during the tournament and the North Africans will be disappointed that they lost in the semi-final after hitting the post and having other chances cleared off the line.

Similarly Senegal will feel they did enough attacking in their semi-final against Gabon to have won the game yet they lost 1-0 in extra-time.

But Senegal's real problem does lie up front as their final pass tends to not be good enough while their attempts at goal are often poor.

Senegal coach Abdoulaye Sarr says he has no injury worries for the game, although Serigne Kara Mbodji and goalkeeper Ousmane Mane only underwent light training on Thursday evening.

"There is a good spirit in the team, we are not in the final but there is still a place at the Olympics at stake so we are going to give everything," Sarr told BBC Sport.

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