Owen da Gama believes his side paid the price for the absence of key defender Erick Mathoho following South Africa’s 1-1 draw with Iraq that saw them crash out of Rio 2016.
South Africa were largely outclassed by Iraq in the match with goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was called upon to make several key saves.
Da Gama believes the side desperately missed Mathoho’s aerial presence in the crucial tie.
‘I think from a defensive point of view we missed Mathoho,’ Da Gama told the media on Thursday, reports KickOff.
‘I think he is our strongest player in the air at the back, and you know the Iraqi game is based on the long ball, and aerial balls. We had to negate that situation and unfortunately Mathoho was not there.’
Da Gama nevertheless praised the performance of Tercious Malepe, who stepped in to replace Mathoho, before explaining the side had also missed the influence of Lebo Mothiba upfront.
‘Injuries always upset the team, we missed Lebo Mothiba up front which would have allowed us to play Gift Motupa in the midfield, where he is really creative,’ the coach explained.
The draw ultimately did not prove enough as South Africa crashed out the of the tournament, with Brazil and Denmark progressing to the next round.
The exit of the men’s side follows hot on the heels of the women’s side, who were sent packing despite holding Brazil to a goalless draw.