Dramatic finish to a tense semi-final
Nigeria and South Africa played out a thrilling 1-1 draw in the semi-final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, with the Super Eagles prevailing 4-2 on penalties after extra time. The game in Bouake, Ivory Coast, had a dramatic finish to normal time, as the referee used the video assistant referee (VAR) to overturn a goal by Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen and award a penalty to South Africa instead. Teboho Mokoena scored from the spot in the 90th minute to cancel out William Troost-Ekong’s earlier penalty for Nigeria and send the game into extra time.
Nigeria dominate extra time but fail to score
In the additional 30 minutes, Nigeria had the upper hand, as they created several chances to win the game. Osimhen, who had been denied a goal by VAR, hit the post with a header, while Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Iheanacho also went close. South Africa, who had defended resolutely throughout the game, were reduced to 10 men in the 115th minute, when Grant Kekana received his second yellow card for a foul on Osimhen. However, the Super Eagles could not find a way past the inspired Ronwen Williams, who made several saves to keep his team in the game.
Nwabali the hero in the shootout
The game went to a penalty shootout, where Nigeria’s goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali emerged as the hero. He saved the first two penalties from South Africa, by Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa, while Nigeria scored all four of their spot-kicks, through Troost-Ekong, Iheanacho, Osimhen and Chukwueze. Nigeria celebrated their victory, as they reached their ninth AFCON final, and their first since 2013, when they won their third title. South Africa, who had knocked out the defending champions Algeria in the quarter-finals, were left heartbroken, as they missed out on their second final appearance.
Nigeria await their final opponents
Nigeria will face either hosts Ivory Coast or the Democratic Republic of Congo in the final, which will be played on Sunday, February 11, at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan. The Super Eagles will be hoping to win their fourth AFCON title, and join Ghana as the joint-second most successful team in the tournament’s history, behind Egypt, who have seven titles. South Africa will play the loser of the second semi-final in the third-place playoff, which will be held on Saturday, February 10, at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake.