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Ten-men Junior Bafana hold Neymar and Co to goalless draw

By Marc Strydom | 2016-08-04 23:22:37.0

Neymar of Brazil and Motobi Mvala of South Africa in action during the men's preliminary round match between Brazil and South Africa for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Soccer tournament at Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, 04 August 2016.  Picture credits: EPA

South Africa’s men’s Olympic team held on for 21 minutes plus four more of added time with 10 men to hold Brazil to a 0-0 draw in their opening game of Rio 2016 at Etsadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia on Thursday night.

With Denmark and Iraq having drawn the early game, Group A is wide open.

The South Africans’ brave, intense and dramatic fighting result against the host and best team in the group has given them every chance of progressing past the group stage.

SA had defensive midfielder Mothobi Mvala sent off in the 69th minute for a second bookable offence.

The inexperienced Highlands Park defensive midfielder’s inclusion by coach Owen Da Gama had raised eyebrows and the red card forced Young Bafana, holding their own until then, to hang on by a thread for the last 20 minutes.

SA matched Brazil in the first half.

Initially the keyed up South Africans even won the ball and initiated some dangerous counter-attacks.

Lebogang Mothiba was through one-on-one with Weverton in the third minute, the Brazil goalkeeper saving at the Lille striker’s feet just inside the area.

Neymar showed his threatening potential with a curling, dipping shot before the half-hour that forced a one-handed save from Itumeleng Khune.

Keagan Dolly’s skidding shot went past the upright for SA, as did Fernando Anderson’s at the other end for Brazil.

The hosts finished the half dominating as Neymar’s powerful strike was pushed over by Khune’s fingertips.

Dolly’s shot across goal soon after the break was inches wide, reminding Brazil SA were in the game.

Khune easily held Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa’s drive.

SA were reduced to 10 men when Highlands Park defensive midfielder Mvala, guilty of some rough play already, was sent off by referee Antonio Lahoz when his studs showed in an over-the-ball challenge on Zeca.

In the 69th Brazil almost made the advantage count as substitute Luan ghosted through and his pass found Gabriel Jesus free at the far post, who struck the upright with an open goal beckoning.

South Africa defended desperately, and at times brilliantly, to grit out a famous result.