Bafana Bafana have appeared at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament once before, at Sydney 2000. A team that included Quinton Fortune and Benni McCarthy were eliminated at the group stages, but made quite an impression by defeating a much-fancied Brazil side who counted Ronaldinho amongst their number. Unfortunately for Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba’s troops, 2-1 defeats to Japan and Slovakia either side of that famous 3-1 win against A Seleção meant they missed out on a place in the knockout stages.
South Africa entered qualification for the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at the final play-off stage, where they defeated Zimbabwe 4-1 on aggregate over two legs, with Keagan Dolly grabbing three to help his side qualify for the final tournament in Senegal. Drawn into Group A with the hosts, Zambia and Tunisia, Owen Da Gama’s side progressed to the semi-finals thanks to a last gasp goal from Menzi Masuku in their crucial final game against Tunisia. A 2-0 defeat to Algeria in the final four meant a straight scrap for a Rio ticket with Senegal in the play-off for third place. A goalless draw led to a penalty shoot-out, with Phakamani Mahlambi scoring the spot kick that took his side to Rio.
Quinton Fortune, Benni McCarthy, Aaron Mokoena (all 2000).
3.3 – South Africa have the highest average number of yellow cards per game of any team to have played at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, picking up ten bookings in their three games at Sydney 2000.