Having a place in the Olympic Games is a dream for every sportsman. For African footballers, the road to next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics have almost reached its final lap, with four teams competing for three tickets to represent the continent in the quadrennial global sports event.
The ongoing Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 reached its semifinal scheduled on Tuesday 19 November in Cairo. Hosts Egypt will take on South Africa while Cote d’Ivoire locks horns with Ghana. Winners on Tuesday will confirm their place in Tokyo, joined by the winner of the third place playoff, scheduled next Friday (22 November) right before the final.
Hosts Egypt are looking for their 12th appearance in the Olympic Games; an African record, with their best being the fourth place in Amsterdam 1928 and Tokyo itself back in 1964. Their semifinal opponents South Africa had just two previous Olympic appearances, failing to go past the group stage in both of them.
Cote d’Ivoire only featured in the Olympics once, crashing from the quarterfinals then, while Ghana, who were the first African team to go on the podium; winning bronze in Barcelona 1992, are eyeing their 7th appearance in the multi-sports event.
The Olympic Pharaohs first appeared in the Olympic Games a whole century ago, in Antwerp 1920, failing to go past the first round. They further took part in Paris 1924 (reached the quarterfinals) and Amsterdam 1928 where they finished fourth.
Egypt crashed out of the first round in Berlin 1936, London 1948, Helsinki 1952, and Roma 1960. They once again finished fourth in Tokyo 1964, before reaching the quarterfinals again in Los Angeles 1984. After a first round exit in Barcelona 1992, their last appearance was when they reached the quarterfinals in London 2012.
South Africa are seeking their third appearance in the Olympics. They first took part in Sydney 2000 crashing from the first round, before seeing the same feat in Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Les Elephants appeared in the Olympics just once before, when they reached the quarterfinals in Beijing 2008, losing to eventual silver medalists and fellow Africans Nigeria.
The Black Meteors tasted Olympics football six times before. They reached the quarterfinal in Tokyo 1964, before crashing out of the group stage in Mexico City 1968 and Munich 1972. In Barcelona 1992 they became the first ever African side to get an Olympic football medal, claiming the bronze then. They lost in the quarterfinals of Atlanta 1996 before exiting the group stage in their last appearance, In Athens 2004.
Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt 2019 - Semifinal
Tuesday 19 November 2019
Cote d’Ivoire v Ghana – Al Salam Stadium (17:00 local time, 15:00 GMT)
Egypt v South Africa – Cairo International Stadium (20:00 local time, 18:00 GMT)