A shadow has been cast over South Africa’s AFCON dream with the news that young star Thapelo Maseko has been ruled out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury. The Sundowns defender suffered the setback during the dramatic extra-time victory over Cape Verde in the quarter-final, forcing his substitution.
Maseko, despite not being a regular starter, had become a valuable asset for coach Hugo Broos, featuring in all five of Bafana’s matches thus far. His pace, dynamism, and defensive solidity offered valuable options, particularly down the flanks.
Speaking at a pre game press conference, Broos confirmed the severity of the injury: “A little update on Thapelo Maseko – he has a grade three muscle injury, so the tournament is over for him.”
While acknowledging the disappointment, Broos emphasized that Maseko will remain with the squad for support and ruled out seeking a replacement due to logistical challenges and the limited time remaining. He expressed confidence in his current options to address the gap within the team.
“We don’t want to do that, and we even have opportunities to solve that problem in the squad, so for that [reason] Thapelo will not be replaced, but the tournament for him is finished,” Broos stated.
Maseko’s absence undoubtedly deals a blow to Bafana’s preparations for the crucial semi-final against Nigeria. Broos and his team now face the task of reshuffling their strategy and identifying the players who can step up and fill the void left by the talented youngster.
Can South Africa overcome this setback and rise to the challenge against a physically fit Nigerian team? Wednesday’s semi-final promises to be a tense and dramatic affair, with Bafana Bafana and Super Eagles looking to navigate a path to the final despite the injury woes.