Nigeria beat Bafana on penalties to reach AFCON final

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  • Post published:February 7, 2024

Nigeria advanced to the Africa Cup of Nations final after claiming a 4-2 penalty shootout win over Bafana Bafana at the Stade de Bouaké on Wednesday evening.

After extra time, the game ended in a 1-1 draw. The three-time winners will play either the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the hosts, Ivory Coast, in Sunday’s championship match.

Teboho Mokoena equalised with a penalty kick in the ninetieth minute, while Nigeria’s captain William Troost-Ekong scored the first goal after 67 minutes. Both goals during regular time also came from penalties.

After Nigeria believed they had equalised by a tap-in from standout forward Victor Osimhen, Mokoena equalised.

However, after VAR informed the Egyptian referee that South African player Percy Tau had been fouled nearby, and the match official agreed, play was moved back to the opposite end of the pitch.

At the end of regulation time, Khuliso Mudau had an opportunity to win the South Africa match in extra time, but he shot wide after goalie Stanley Nwabali parried a free kick from Mokoena.

After Grant Kekana was sent off for a last-defender foul on 115 minutes, South Africa was reduced to 10 men.

Nigeria had defeated South Africa three times prior to this encounter, giving them a spotless record against them in the major African football championship.

The Super Eagles defeated Bafana Bafana (The Boys) 2-1 in an Egyptian quarterfinal encounter in 2019, 4-0 in a group match in Tunisia four years later, and 2-0 in a Nigerian semi-final in 2000.

Coach Jose Peseiro of Nigeria made one change to the squad that defeated Angola 1-0: he replaced left-back Zaidu Sanusi, who had not practiced the night before, with Bright Osayi-Samuel.

Star attacker Osimhen of Napoli, who delayed his arrival in Bouake from Abidjan due to stomach trouble, started for the three-time champions.

In the stadium, a few Nigerians showed their support for Osimhen by donning duplicates of the face mask he continues to wear three years after sustaining an injury to his eye socket.

Hugo Broos, the South African coach who was born in Belgium, also made one change following his team’s triumph over Cape Verde on penalties: he brought back central defender Siyanda Xulu and benched Thapelo Morena.

In a tense, exciting first half, South Africa had a similar amount of shots on goal, but more on target, more possession, and more forced corners.

Osimhen, the current African Player of the Year, knelt and clutched his abdomen barely a minute after kickoff, yet he persevered and worked nonstop after receiving treatment.

Semi Ajayi headed blandly at custodian Ronwen Williams, who stopped four shootout penalties against Cape Verde, when Nigeria, the pre-match favourites, were given a free kick.

In front of a crowd of 32,000, Percy Tau had a pair of half-chances for South Africa, but a poor shot and then a heavy first touch let him down.

As halftime drew near, South African premier league custodian Stanley Nwabali of Nigeria, who plays for Chippa United, did a wonderful one-hand parry to stop Evidence Makgopa.

Midway through the second half, with the Super Eagles leading, Mothobi Mvala fouled Osimhen, and Troost-Ekong scored the penalty to break the tie.

With fifteen minutes remaining, Makgopa had a chance to equalise in the central Ivorian city, but his shot went narrowly wide.

Subsequently, there was the Osimhen goal that was disallowed, the Mokoena equaliser, the Mudau miss, and thirty minutes of continuous extra time play, which included Kekana’s red card, prior to the shootout.

Photo by Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix