The Olympic Games is unarguably the biggest sporting event, and a dream of every athlete across the world. With the Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 serving as the continental qualifier to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a section of the coaches of the qualified teams can’t simply take their eyes off one of the three spots to next year’s multisports event.
The draw for the final tournament held at the Haramlek Palace in the iconic Montaza Palace in Alexandria on Wednesday pitted hosts Egypt alongside Mali, Cameroon and Ghana in Group A whilst holders Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa and Zambia constitute Group B.
Host Egypt will battle Mali in the opening match at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday, 8 November 2019, with the final at the same venue on Friday, 22 November 2019.
David Notoane (Head Coach, South Africa)
I am happy with the draw; eight good teams, eight very tough teams. It doesn’t really matter which group you are in because it was always going to be good groups. Our group I call it the group of derbies; the other group maybe the group of death with hosts Egypt and three West African countries. I am happy the first game will be against Zambia our neighbours, a team that we know very well. Then the last game we play Nigeria, current champions. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Ibrahim Tanko (Head Coach, Ghana)
It’s a very tough group, maybe the group of death. If you want to win the trophy and qualify for the Olympics you have to face everything that comes your way. It’s all about preparation. We have a very good team that can beat any team that comes our way. We will prepare very well then come back to Egypt on November 8 and pull a surprise.
All the teams are tough. Mali have recently become one of the best in Africa in youth football. Cameroon and Ghana are powerhouses in Africa. Egypt, the host nation also has a strong team. I don’t think there is a weak team in the group, and that will make the tournament very exciting.
Fanyeri Diarra (Head Coach, Mali)
It's a difficult draw, but we Mali like challenges. Each team will play with its own capacity. Our objective is to be on the podium, and this will give us the opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I think each one will play with his luck.
Soualiho Haidara (Head Coach, Cote d’Ivoire)
Over 40 teams participated in the qualifiers, and now we have only eight for the final tournament. It means that these teams deserve to be here. We cannot underestimate any team. It looks like an easy draw but it's not. There are some teams developing and doing great efforts every day and are improving to reach the top level. We shouldn't be surprised by the performance of such teams. Overall, we are very excited to be part of this important tournament.
Ademola Olajire (Director of Communications, Nigeria Football Federation)
Nigeria is in a tough group. It’s a tournament of eight very strong teams and only three will be going to the Olympics. All the teams will be looking at taking their chances as they are able to create them. Any team failing to take their chances or lose concentration in just one out of 90 minutes, they will be in hot soup. We will approach each game as though it is a final. We need to pick points in every game so that we can get to the semis. Even in the semis you are still not sure of a place in the Olympics. That makes each match very tough and difficult. There will be spectacles to watch.