South Africa’s Road to the 2000 Olympics


It’s fair to say South Africa weren’t given much hope of qualifying for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.


After scraping past Togo 3-2 on aggregate in the first round, AmaGlug-glug were paired against three more West African nations in the second round, with two of them counting among the traditional powerhouses of continental football.


But South Africa managed to upset the applecart - just - by qualifying as the best second-placed finisher, resulting in a play-off against Oceania representative New Zealand, who they beat 4-2 on aggregate after a 1-0 victory in Vosloorus.


Here, then, is a game-by-game breakdown of how Shakes Mashaba’s boys qualified … in their own words.


FIRST ROUND


THE GAME

13 June, 1999

Togo 2 (Coubageat 14, Atsua 41pen)

South Africa 2 (Mbuthu 21 Langueh 82og)

South Africa’s qualifying campaign was off to a challenging start in challenging conditions in Lome. A mix-up between Aaron Mokoena and Fabian McCarthy allowed Coubageat to score after just 14 minutes, but Patrick Mbuthu had the visitors level soon afterwards. Togo regained the lead with a penalty just before the break and, with Benni McCarthy and Daniel Matsau struggling up-front, Mashaba turned to debutant Simba Marumo, and it was his cross that Langueh deflected into his own net with just eight minutes remaining.


WHAT THEY SAID

“I have travelled all over Africa with the team, but this was one of the worst trips we ever made! There were problems from the start and constant delays. The hotel we first booked in was appalling. We were also travelling in a tiny bus with everyone crammed in together. It wasn’t a nice way to prepare for a game” - Emile Baron


South Africa: Baron, Booth, Mokoena, F McCarthy, Kannemeyer, Carnell (Fredericks 46’), Mgwigwi, Nteo, Mbuthu, Matsau (Nhleko 46’), B McCarthy (Marumo 70’)


THE GAME

27 June, 1999

South Africa 1 (Fortune 42pen)

Togo 0

After the shambles in Lome, AmaGlug-glug got it together at both ends of the pitch in Vosloorus, with McCarthy denied by the goalkeeper on numerous occasions. In the end progression to the next round was ensured courtesy of a Quinton Fortune penalty, with the soon-to-be Manchester United man netting after being the one fouled in the area.


WHAT THEY SAID

“Quinton had a brilliant match and was definitely the hero of the day. His running off the ball was good and he moved well when in support, drawing the defence away from Benni. He showed a lot of class by getting straight up and scoring the penalty after he was fouled” - Emile Baron


South Africa: Baron, Booth, Mokoena, F McCarthy, Kannemeyer, Mgwigwi (Fredericks 86’), Mbuthu, Neto, Fortune, Nhleko (Marumo 79’), B McCarthy (Matsau 87’)



SECOND ROUND


THE GAME

17 October, 1999

Ghana 2 (Ofory-Asaye 45 Copson 48)

South Africa 2 (Matsau 16, 36)

South Africa were given no chance of getting a result in Accra; more so given the fact that Aaron Mokoena was the only foreign player made available for the match. But on a blistering hot day in front of a partisan crowd, AmaGlug-glug raced out of the blocks and were 2-0 up inside 36 minutes courtesy of a brace from Bloemfontein Celtic striker Daniel Matsau. But goals either side of the break from Ofory-Asaye and Copson changed the complexion of the game, and in the end South Africa were happy to settle for a point.


WHAT THEY SAID

“The second half seemed to go on forever, and the crowd were getting louder and louder as the game neared its end, hoping the home team would score. We were pushing all the time, trying for the winner, but it wasn’t to be. Still, to come back from Ghana with a point in the bag was a good achievement” - Daniel Matsau


South Africa: Baron, Kannemeyer, F McCarthy, Booth, Mokoena, Mbuthu, Nteo Fredericks (Mgwigwi), Pule (Marumo), Matsau, Nomvethe


THE GAME

30 October, 1999

South Africa 3 (Nomvete 17, 78 Matsau 70)

Guinea 1 (Bangoura 47)

Back at their ‘slaughterhouse’ in Vosloorus, South Africa got off to a flying start through Siyabonga Nomvethe. They dominated most facets of the game but, against the run of play, Guinea equalised just after the break through Bangoura. But Daniel Matsau’s third goal for his country in less than two weeks settled the nerves, before ‘Bhele’ secured the points with his second of the game 12 minutes from time.


WHAT THEY SAID

“I appreciated getting good reviews in the media [after the game]. That was a real confidence boost because we had made a shaky start to the season at Ajax Cape Town and my club bosses were unhappy that I was getting all these national call-ups, but I think that afternoon I showed that I was an important member of AmaGlug-glug” - David Kannemeyer


South Africa: Baron, Mokoena, F McCarthy, Kannemeyer, Booth, Mbuthu, Buckley (Fredericks 55’), Nteo, Lekoelea, Nomvethe, Matsau


THE GAME

19 February, 2000

South Africa 2 (B McCarthy 32 Pule 73)

Cameroon 0

The West Africans arrived in Vosloorus with one thing on their minds - go in hard on the hosts, rattle them, and take advantage. For a while it looked as though it may work as tackles flew in and tempers flared, but Benni McCarthy’s header just past the half-hour mark settled the nerves. Cameroon came out even harder after the break and threatened to score on a few occasions, but substitute Jabu Pule’s 73rd-minute strike confirmed a memorable victory for Mashaba’s troops.


WHAT THEY SAID

“I saw the gap I had been waiting for and cut in between the two defenders. I looked up and saw the goalkeeper was looking a bit panicky, so I took the shot with my weaker left foot and from a difficult angle. I was overjoyed when it hit the post and went in” - Jabu Pule


South Africa: Baron, Kannemeyer, F McCarthy, Booth, Nteo, Mbuthu, Fredericks, B McCarthy (Matsau 69’), Nomvethe (Nhleko 86’), Lekoelea (Pule 60’)


THE GAME

26 February, 2000

Cameroon 2 (Suffo 4 Meyong 51)

South Africa 0

Just a week after their memorable victory against the Indomitable Lions, AmaGlug-glug found themselves in the cauldron in Yaounde, with a home team desperate for revenge. An early goal from Patrick Suffo gave them the perfect start, with the Nantes striker proving more than a handful throughout the match as Cameroon pushed for a second. That came just after the break courtesy of Meyong, leaving South Africa to exercise damage control for the remainder of the match.


WHAT THEY SAID

“We had expected a tough encounter and that’s what we got. Shakes told us before the game to focus really hard for the first 15 minutes because that is when they would be at their most threatening. He was right - we lost concentration at the back and conceded a silly goal as a result” - Abram Nteo


South Africa: Baron, Mokoena, Kannemeyer, F McCarthy, Booth, Nteo, Mbuthu (Mazibuko), Fredericks (Gulwa), Matsau (Nhleko), Pule, Nomvethe


THE GAME

11 March, 2000

South Africa 1 (Fredericks 70)

Ghana 0

South Africa headed into the match against Ghana in low spirits after a bizarre SAFA decision in the week which prevented senior team players from representing the Under-23s. However, the weakened side did the nation proud, sticking to their plans and frustrating the visitors, before Stanton Fredericks netted the game’s only goal 20 minutes from time.


WHAT THEY SAID

“We tried to get to Shakes to congratulate him, but we couldn’t even speak to him; he was crying tears of joy because he knew we had made the nation proud. That game will stay in my memory for the rest of my life” - Stanton Fredericks


South Africa: Baron, Kannemeyer, F McCarthy, Booth, Matombo, Pule, Mbuthu, Nteo, Fredericks, Matsau (Gulwa), Nhleko (Kukame)


THE GAME

26 March, 2000

Guinea 1 (Yattara 32)

South Africa 4 (Booth 19, Nomvethe 24, McCarthy 46, Fortune 73)

After the heroics against Ghana, it was important that South Africa kept the momentum going in Conakry. They got off to a blistering start and were 2-0 up midway through the first half thanks to goals from Matthew Booth and Siyabonga Nomvethe. But Yattara’s goal just past the half-hour mark changed the momentum, with the hosts making all the play as they searched for an equaliser. Enter substitute Benni McCarthy, who scored with his very first touch - a volley from Nomvethe’s cross - before Quinton Fortune made sure of the points on 73 minutes.


WHAT THEY SAID

“I only got there [Guinea] at 11pm the night before the game and the starting line-up was already announced. I wasn’t disappointed to be on the bench; I knew I would have a role to play when the coach needed me. It was my second game back after making myself available for national selection, so I was keen to impress” - Benni McCarthy


South Africa: Baron, Kannemeyer, Booth, Mokoena, Matombo, Fredericks, Fortune, Mbuthu, Pule (Mgwigwi), Matsau (B McCarthy), Nomvethe, Kukame



PLAYOFFS


THE GAME

19 May, 2000

New Zealand 2 (Urlovic 13 F McCarthy 31og)

South Africa 3 (Nomvethe 20 Fortune 27 Booth 89)

By finishing as the best second-placed team, AmaGlug-glug earned themselves a play-off against Oceania’s New Zealand. Not knowing what to expect, South Africa were a bit slow out the blocks and went behind after just 13 minutes when Paul Urlovic scored. A quick-fire double from Siyabonga Nomvethe and Quinton Fortune put them back on track, but Fabian McCarthy’s own-goal just past the half-hour mark levelled matters again. The game looked to be heading for a draw until captain Matthew Booth rose highest to head home Jabu Pule's corner and give his team a famous win.


WHAT THEY SAID

“We didn’t know what to expect when we got there. I couldn’t believe how many South African fans were at the game, and that gave us a real boost. But when we went 1-0 down I remember thinking ‘I hope this isn’t going to be one of those days where we create chances but don’t score” - Dillon Sheppard


South Africa: Baron, Kannemeyer, F McCarthy, Booth, Mokoena, Sheppard (Pule 65’), Fortune, Mbuthu, Lekoelea, Nomvethe, B McCarthy (Nhleko 82’)


THE GAME

27 May, 2000

South Africa 1 (Matsau 87)

New Zealand 0

South Africa needed just a draw to qualify for the Olympic Games, but they hardly had things their own way in Vosloorus as the All Whites frustrated them for all of 87 minutes before Daniel Matsau, the man who scored the first goal of the qualifying campaign, came up trumps again, wriggling his way past defender Ryan Nelson before firing home to set off wild celebrations.


WHAT THEY SAID

“I really enjoyed that game - I felt like I could run all day! Nothing could drive me more than a place at the Olympics” - Steve Lekoelea


South Africa: Baron, Mntakwende, F McCarthy (Matombo 74’), Booth, Kannemeyer, Lekoelea, Fortune, Mbuthu, Fredericks (Pule 62’), Kukame (Matsau 84’), Nomvethe


Class of 2000

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