South African Under-23 captain Keagan Dolly was extremely proud of his team after they qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio with a thrilling penalty shootout win over Senegal at the weekend.
The midfielder flew alone out of Dakar in the early hours of Sunday morning after leading his country to a bronze medal finish following a 3-1 win over the hosts in the CAF u23 Africa Cup of Nations at Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor on Saturday.
Dolly was released early from the camp to join his club Mamelodi Sundowns in preparation for the Telkom Knockout final against Kaizer Chiefs in Durban on Wednesday.
With the third place finish, South Africa booked their place at the Olympic Games in Brazil next year.
The CAF U23 AFCON tournament was won by Nigeria, who defeated Algeria 2-1 in the final. Both countries have also qualified for the Games, scheduled to take place from 5–21 August 2016.
“The boys showed character, they bounced back after a (3-1) defeat (to the same opponents) in the first match, and they did the same after a loss in the semi-final, and they then showed their quality in the game against Senegal,” Dolly said. “We are just happy we qualified.”
South Africa, who were also awarded the Fair Play Award at the end of the tournament, drew the match 0-0 against Senegal.
Gift Motupa, Menzi Masuku and Phakamani Mahlambi scored for South Africa, while Kwanda Mngonyama and Dolly had their spot kicks saved.
South African goalkeeper Jody February was the hero of the match as he saved four penalties on the day – one during the match, and a further three in the penalty shootout. Only Ismaila Sarr of Senegal managed to score past February.
Dolly continued: “I am very happy, I think the boys fought well. It was a well-deserved victory.
“Congratulations must go to the technical team for leading us and of course the star of the match, goalkeeper Jody February for helping us qualify, and also to the rest of South Africa who stood behind us. We are just happy that we made them proud.”
The skipper explained that was never going to be easy playing the hosts, but felt South Africa had a stronger desire to win.
“It is always tough when you play against the hosts especially when they have the upper hand with them beating us in the first game and also because they are playing in front of their crowds,” Dolly added. “But the boys showed a lot more hunger than in the first game, they worked twice as hard and showed they wanted it more than Senegal. In the end we won the match.”
** The entire SA u23 squad will touch down at OR Tambo International Airport in at 17h15 on Monday.