Confederation of African Football (CAF) technical director Abdel Monem Hussein “Shatta” has hailed Gabon, who have already booked their place as the first African team to reach next year’s Olympic Games in London.
“It’s been a very strong tournament so far, with a group of tough African teams. I believe those who qualified for the semifinals deserve to be there because of their technical and tactical efforts and skill,” Shatta told CAF’s official website on Tuesday.
“Generally, the scoring percentage is average, as we saw 24 goals in 12 matches, which give a ratio of two goals per match.
“That’s so because eight teams are participating and four of them will have a chance at Olympic qualification. That has made all the teams cautious about not losing matches, and that’s led to few goals being scored,” he added.
Gabon, who finished second in group B behind Egypt, surprisingly defeated Senegal 1-0 late on Tuesday to qualify for the U-23 African Championship final – an achievement they have earned, according to Shatta.
“Group B has been a surprising one, which saw Gabon qualify instead of Cote d’Ivoire, who almost won the group. This group had an average scoring ratio of 12 goals, exactly like Group A,” the former Sudanese player explained.
“Gabon played against all odds and were different, especially in their last game, in which they defeated Cote d'Ivoire 3-1 despite playing with only ten players for most of the second half,” Shatta said.
Egypt and hosts Morocco will meet for another semi-final game on Wednesday, and the CAF official believes the young Pharaohs also earned that achievement due to their experience.
“They have been the foremost disciplined side so far of all the participating teams. Their players are experienced, with most of them having participated in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Columbia,” concluded Shatta.
The African Championship winners, runner-up and third-placed team will directly qualify for the Olympics, while the fourth-placed side will have to overcome an Asian representative in a playoff in order to qualify.