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Masuku hits the mark as SA move closer to Rio 2016
- Updated: December 5, 2015
South Africa’s Under-23 footballers can almost taste the tropical heat of Rio for next year’s Olympic Games after sealing a semi-final spot in the CAF U23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal on Friday.
After losing their first match to Senegal and bouncing back to beat Zambia, the youngsters came up against Tunisia and Menzi Masuku scored from a swift counter-attack with five minutes to go to full time as South Africa won 1-0.
Three top teams from the competition will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics and coach Owen da Gama’s boys showed their intent to be among the three with another brilliant show.
With Tunisia pouring forward looking for the winner, they left massive gaps at the back which South Africa exploited to the full as Masuku made them to pay a heavy price.
And long before Masuku hit the North Africans with a sucker punch, Gift Motupa and Masuku had missed golden opportunities in the dying minutes of the game but that was all forgotten in the 85th minute as the Orlando Pirates marksman put huge smiles on South African football fans.
Gift Motupa could have made a dream start for South Africa but shot horribly wide from a promising position in the very first minute.
The scorer of two goals against Zambia got another opportunity a few moments later after a cross by captain Dolly but his first time effort went horribly wide.
Siphelele Ntshangase then flashed a vicious shot wide in the 15th minute in South Africa’s best chance.
Dolly then unleashed a swerving free kick from just outside the box but the Tunisian keeper Ben Hsa made a stunning save as South Africa started to ask more probing questions.
Tunisia from nowhere then fashioned two good chances, the first shot hitting the side-netting and Jody February going low to save a volley from the Tunisians as the match went to half time deadlocked at 0-0.
Another chance for Tunisia went begging when South Africa dilly dallied to clear in the box just after the restart as they survived a really threatening move.
The Tunisians knowing only a win would do, then literally camped in South Africa’s half searching for that crucial goal.
In the 73rd minute, South Africa somehow survived again when February made another big save when it looked like the Tunsians had broken the deadlock.
Motupa then missed a great opportunity in the 80th minute from a counter attack as the match remained goalless. Masuku also missed another golden chance as Tunisians were now getting frustrated and being caught regularly on counter attacks.
And in the 85th minute, that happened when Dolly engineered a swift counter attack involving Motupa and Masuku made no mistake from inside the box to make it 1-0 and effectively seal South Africa’s qualification into the semis.
Picture of Masuku courtesy of kickoff.com