COSAFA sides learn fate in Olympics draw

Both Banyana Banyana and the South African Under-23 Men’s National Team will face Rio 2016 Olympic Games hosts Brazil after the draw was conducted at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

The women’s team has been drawn in Group E alongside Brazil, Sweden and China, while the men’s team is in Group A with the hosts, Iraq and Denmark.

The tournament starts from 3-20 August.

Zimbabwe, who will also be competing in the women’s competition, were drawn in Group F alongside Canada, Australia and Germany.

Owen da Gama’s South African men’s Under-23 side will open the men’s tournament with a clash against Brazil.

“I am very happy with the draw. It reminds me of the CAF u23 AFCON where were drawn against the hosts and we eliminated them – maybe this is a good luck omen for us.

“But then again, no draw is easy because all the teams are tough. We could not have asked for a better opening match because the pressure will be on Brazil as hosts,” said Da Gama from Rio after the draw.

“The fact that we have drawn Brazil gives us confidence and a lot of motivation to tackle this competition. Fortunately, we played them last month and even though we lost, we know what they are about but that doesn’t mean they will be there for the taking. We still have to work hard. And I am by no means disregarding Iraq and Denmark – these are very good sides and have to plan carefully for all of them so we can get to the next round.”

Banyana Banyana coach Vera Pauw was also excited at the prospect of playing the hosts.

“This is as fantastic draw because the truth is every draw is tough and we knew coming here we could draw anyone. We are excited these are very strong teams and we will do everything in our power to ensure our preparations are thorough,” said Pauw, also from Brazil.

“What is also good is that we will be staying in Rio and only move when we play the hosts in Manaus. The good thing about this tournament is that it will give our girls the exposure they need and also increase their profiles. Like Owen said, the pressure is mainly on Brazil to perform in front of their fans and we just have to focus on what we have to do.”

The finals will be played 19th (Women’s) and 20th (Men’s) of August 2016.