Menzi Masuku and Gift Motupa arrived in Dakar, Senegal in the early hours of Tuesday, 2 December from Tunisia after their club Orlando Pirates played in the final of the CAF Confederation Cup against Etoile Du Sahel on Sunday, 29 November 2015. Later in the day they played a pivotal role in helping the South African Men’s under-23 National Team defeat Zambia 3-2 in the CAF under-23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
This was South Africa’s second match in the competition – they lost 3-1 to Senegal in the first match (Saturday, 28 November). But the duo does not want to take the credit. Motupa says: ‘I think we brought a little bit of CAF experience because we were competing at a higher level, that’s why we performed well. Having said that, we don’t want to take the glory because I think we worked hard as a team. The whole team showed a lot of commitment and that is why we got the result. It is not just about Menzi and me, the whole team played a crucial role in our victory, and we are hoping the next game we will all do the same. We made our nation proud, we were working for each other.’
Masuku, the scorer of the first goal against Zambia, echoed Motupa’s words: ‘We started poorly but as the game continued, we realised that we needed to put more effort if we were to get a result. It was very vital for us to get the three points.’ Both players are under no illusion that even though they have played against Tunisia, things will not be easier.
Motupa says: ‘We are looking forward to the clash against Tunisia which we know is not going to be easy because both countries want to qualify for the semi-finals. We are expecting a very tough match but we are ready. We are mentally prepared and we need to work even harder than we did against Zambia and the rest will follow.’ With the hosts having qualified for the semi-finals with one match to go, South Africa and Tunisia are tied on three points each. A draw will see South Africa go through as they have a better goal difference, but the players don’t want to take that option.
Masuku says: ‘It is important to go into the match with a winning mentality as we want to get maximum points and also to get respect from other teams in the competition. A win will also boost our confidence as players. We are determined to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games, so this game will be very important for the team since we want to progress to the next round of competition. We just have to remain humble and focus on our goal as a team. As long as we put our hearts in it, we have a good chance of doing well for ourselves and country.’
Abbubaker Mobara will be assessed at tonight’s training session whether he will be ready or not for the clash against Tunisia. Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Local Organising Committee of the CAF u23 AFCON have changed the kick-off times. In the last group stage matches, South Africa will face Tunisia in Mbour at 19:00 South African time instead of the initial 17:00, and the same goes with the clash between Senegal and Zambia, which will be played in Dakar. The third/fourth place play off will be played an hour later at 18:00 South African time instead of 17:00.