Known for his penalty heroics, Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams will play a vital role if South Africa’s Africa Cup of Nations dreams are to continue, writes DEAN WORKMAN.
As we enter the business end of Afcon 2019, with only eight teams left, the games are becoming tighter and tighter and penalty shootouts more and more likely.
In the last 16 of the tournament in Egypt, three of the eight games were decided by spot kicks and only Algeria managed to win by a goal margin bigger than one, proving that there is very little between the teams left in the competition.
This shines a light on the men tasked with keeping the ball out of the back of the net. In SuperSport United stopper Williams, Bafana have a keeper who looks to be growing in stature and confidence the further the team goes in tournament.
Many Bafana fans reacted with fear when Williams was named between the sticks for the opening game against Ivory Coast, with several pointing to his poor past showings in a Bafana jersey and, in particular, the 5-0 demolition at the hands of Brazil in 2015.
That loss to Brazil, however, has been left in the past by Williams who produced a stunning performance against Les Elephants pulling off a number of top-quality saves to keep his team in the game they eventually lost 1-0.
He was then inexplicably dropped against Namibia, with coach Stuart Baxter stating that the game was better suited for Darren Keet, but Williams was brought back into the starting lineup for the loss against Morocco where he again had a solid game and was only undone by a late goal.
The 27-year-old kept his place for the mammoth clash with Egypt and he didn’t put a foot wrong, keeping a clean sheet as Bafana went on to record a famous victory.
Done and dusted.
Egypt players slump in disbelief after they were stunned by @BafanaBafana before a sell out crowd at Cairo International Stadium last night.
Bafana Bafana next meet Nigeria on 10 July. #AFCON2019 pic.twitter.com/xwomRATGWk
— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) July 7, 2019
In each game Williams has shown improved composure and confidence and his time to be the hero could be on the horizon with Bafana set to face Nigeria in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
The SuperSport keeper is known for his heroics from spot kicks, which is something he has shown on a regular basis in recent times as he led his team to victory in both the MTN8 final in 2017 and Telkom Knockout in 2014.
His reputation as a penalty saver is so great that it can be argued that his club side look to play for penalties when involved in tight knockout games in the PSL.
Ronwen Williams to the rescue ⚽👏
— SuperSport ⚽️🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 20, 2019
Williams has enjoyed a magnificent 2018-19 campaign and picked up the Absa Premiership Goalkeeper of the Season award. He could use this as a springboard to finally step out of the shadow of long-time Bafana No 1 Itumeleng Khune, who missed the tournament through injury.
With Bafana already showing their defensive solidity in the tournament, it is not a far stretch to think that the side could be involved in a shootout as the tournament progresses.
They will, however, be confident that their penalty-saving machine Williams could just be their trump card.
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