Southern African trio eye Under-23 AFCON

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Tadious Manyepo

 

Harare - It's not just the Africa Cup of Nations berths that Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa will be fighting for, but the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the ultimate.

Yet someone between Zimbabwe and South Africa will have to give as the two neighbours clash for the right to go to the biannual tournament in Egypt later this year.

Three of the best finishers at the biannual tournament in Egypt will book their tickets to the quadrennial Olympics in Tokyo, Japan next year. 

But Zimbabwe or South Africa, as well as Zambia, should first book a place at the Under-23 AFCON contest to be in a position to fight for a place in Japan. 

Zimbabwe face South Africa in a two-legged tie in a space of three days next week. 

The South Africans host the first leg before travelling to Zimbabwe for the second instalment of the assignment in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city. 

Tonderai Ndiraya, the Zimbabwean coach, this week named a strong team including several players who ply their trade overseas. 

He is not crossing the bridge before he gets there. 

"Our minds are concerned about the forthcoming head-to-head clash against South Africa. 

"We are not looking beyond that. Look, if we start talking about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at this moment, we will get lost and will be swayed away before even qualifying for the tournament which will make us eligible to play in the qualifying tournament," said Ndiraya. 

"At the moment, we are strategising on the best way to beat South Africa whom we know are a good side both at home and away. 

"This is one team that can beat anyone in the world no wonder why they have qualified for virtually every AFCON tournament. 

"So we have to condition our players physically, mentally and tactically to be able to compete against a tough South African team over two legs. 

"We are taking it stage by stage so the priority for now is AFCON qualification then see what comes out after that." 

Zambia, on the other hand, will be battling for own place against the Congo. 

With Fashion Sakala on top of his game, the Zambians will hope to snatch it in Congo's place. 

Seven teams, plus hosts Egypt, will wrestle for the continental honours as well as a place at the Tokyo Olympics next year. 

The best three finishers will find their way to Japan. 

 

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