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Inaugural U-23 African Championship draw held in Cairo
The draw for the first ever African U-23 Championship which will serve as qualifier for London 2012 Olympic football qualifier has been conducted at CAF HQ in Cairo and it pitted the hosts Egypt against Cote d’I voire, Gabon and South Africa in group A while Nigeria, Morocco , Algeria and Senegal make up group B. The top three teams will qualify for the London 2012 Olympics while the fourth placed side will engage a team from Asia in a play-off. The draw was conducted by CAF and FIFA executive member, Mr Hani Aboo Rida and CAF secretary general, Mr Hicham El Amrani.
The Confederation of African Football decided to turn the final phase of Olympic qualifiers into an African U-23 Championship. This means that the tournament will be held every four years and will fall in the year before the Olympics.
The inaugural Championship will be played from 26th November to 10th December 2011 in Egypt with group A matches to be held at Military Stadium while group B games will take place at Arab Contractor Stadium. The Final and third and fourth place matches will take place on the 10th of December at Cairo International Stadium.
Egyptian U-23 coach Hani Ramzy said he was pleased with the draw and had respect for all the teams in the group. “We have a good chance to realize our dream to qualify for London but we have to work hard because there are no small teams in today’s football. We will start our training for this championship on the 27th of this month.”
South African Football Association CEO Dr Robin Petersen was at the draw told Cafonline.com that this was a tough draw and whoever we would have got in our group would have been equally tough because all 8 teams are good. “Having said that l think this is a group that we can come out of with some positive results. Recently in Maputo for All African Games we used our U-23 B side but we are hoping to talk to the clubs and have our top players released for this Championship and if that happens l am positive that we can make it to London Olympics.”
Meanwhile Mr Sory Diabate the vice president of Cote d’ Ivoire Football Federation said it was an interesting draw which is bound to produce some fierce competition. Côte d’Ivoire has the potential to do well in this Championship. “We however have a problem on our hands because during the qualifiers we had our Europe based players coming for these games and l am not sure if we will get the players from Europe for the Championship. If we don’t get them we will have to make do with the local player but our chances of making it to London will increase if we get our Europe based players and we will have a very good team.”
Group A: Egypt; Gabon; South Africa; Cote d’ Ivoire
Group B: Nigeria; Morocco; Algeria; Senegal
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