PLEASED: Shakes Mashaba. CREDIT: Sourced
Shakes Mashaba begrudgingly allowed the U23 team to use the Cosafa Cup to prepare for the Olympics instead of taking Bafana Bafana.

Owen da Gama’s manne take on either Lesotho or Malawi as Group B winners in the quarterfinals tomorrow (3.45pm).

Mashaba, the last man to guide an SA team to the Olympics 16 years ago, was persuaded to look at the bigger picture because the team doesn’t have that many competitive matches to prepare for the showpiece in Brazil in August.

After the Cosafa Cup, they will have several camps and a friendly with Japan on June 29, to build for their trip to Brazil.

Shakes says: “It’s a very good thing (to take the U23s), although I am not happy about it.

“But if things don’t go well they won’t say that these are the U23s. They would have beaten South Africa.

“We have to be careful about that. I have always said that for us to be world beaters, we have to first conquer our region, then Africa and eventually the world.

“I agreed because the bigger picture is important.

“If they were to go to the Olympics without tough opposition, that would have deceived us because we would play small teams and we beat them 3-0, 4-0 but when we get there it’s a different story.

“Here there is a lot at stake, including a trophy.

“Teams who come here want to return home with it.”