African football stars chasing glory at the Olympic Games

A trio of African teams will head to the Olympic Games in 2021 aiming to end the continent’s 21-year wait to win a gold medal.

Egypt, Ivory Coast and South Africa have qualified for the tournament after filling the top three places at the 2019 Africa U23 Cup of Nations.

While no African nation has ever won the World Cup, two teams have previously claimed gold at the Olympic Games.

Nigeria were the first team to achieve the feat in 1996, while Cameroon followed up four years later to highlight Africa’s progress as a footballing nation.

Those two teams contained numerous players who went on to be successful in European football and laid the foundations for many more to follow.

Read on as we take a look at Africa’s trio of contenders at the 2021 Olympics and assess their chances of success in Tokyo.

Salah the key to Egypt’s hopes

Egypt have twice finished fourth at the Olympics in 1928 and 1964, but they will believe they can progress further this time around.

They were unbeaten during the opening phase of the Africa U23 Cup of Nations, recording victories over Mali, Cameroon and Ghana.

They ran out 3-0 winners against South Africa in the semi-finals, before claiming the trophy with a 2-1 win after extra-time over Ivory Coast in the final.

Since booking their place in Tokyo head coach Shawky Gharib has insisted that he will select Mohamed Salah as one of his three over-age players for the tournament.

That news didn’t go down to well with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, but Salah is fully expected to play in Japan if Gharib follows through on his promise.

Egypt would probably be the cornerstone of numerous round robin bets to win their group if Salah played and it would be no surprise to see them progress a long way if he is in the team.

Last eight the limit for Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast reached the quarter-finals at the 2008 Olympics and that will probably be the best they can hope for in 2021.

They beat Nigeria and Zambia during the opening stage in qualifying, but suffered a narrow defeat against South Africa in between.

The Elephants needed penalties to see off Ghana in the last four and were fortunate to take Egypt to extra-time in the final.

A cruciate ligament injury to forward Christian Kouame didn’t help their cause, but he should be back to take his place in the squad next summer.

Youssouf Dao impressed during Kouame’s absence, scoring twice during the rest of the tournament including a fine diving header against Ghana.

The Sparta Prague forward is a handful and it would be no surprise to see him secure a move to a bigger club if he plays well in Japan.

South Africa stumble through

South Africa have qualified for the Olympics twice before, but they failed to progress to the knockout stage on each occasion.

They were unimpressive during qualification, with their victory over Ivory Coast sandwiched in between laboured draws against Zambia and Nigeria.

Bafana Bafana were drubbed 3-0 by Egypt in the semi-finals, but bounced back to beat Ghana on penalties to secure their place at the Olympics.

South Africa’s hopes of progression are likely to rest on the shoulders of Luther Singh, with the 22-year-old currently making a name for himself in Portugal.

Mamelodi Sundowns attacker Phakamani Mahlambi could also be troublesome in front of goal assuming he is now fully recovered from an ankle injury.

South Africa managed to draw with Brazil at the 2016 Olympics, but it would be a major shock if they were capable of achieving similar heroics next year.

Top