Nwabali’s heroics put Eagles in final

Nwabali’s heroics put Eagles in final
February 07 20:39 2024 Print This Article

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have qualified for the final of the ongoing 2023 Africa cup of Nations (AFCON) in, Côte d’Ivoire by defeating Bafana Bafana of South Africa after a penalty shootout.The Nigerian team sealed their place in the final for the first time since winning the competition back in 2013 after battling through 4-2 on penalties in a thrilling semi-final clash with South Africa.

A clash against South Africa – playing in their first AFCON semi-final for 24 years – promised to be a stern test, however, and that was reflected in a cagey start with neither side able to gain control of proceedings.

After easing their way into the contest, Bafana Bafana created a golden opportunity to take the lead shortly before the half-hour mark, but Percy Tau could only direct his effort straight into the arms of Stanley Nwabili.

South Africa continued to look the more threatening of the two sides with HT approaching, and Nwabili had to be alert in the Nigeria goal to expertly divert Evidence Makgopa’s curled strike around the post.


Grateful for that reprieve, José Peseiro’s men used the interval to their advantage and emerged after the restart with renewed focus, as Victor Osimhen headed wastefully over the bar from inside the six-yard box.


Undeterred, the Super Eagles frontman made up for his profligacy shortly after when his driving run into the box was halted by a clumsy challenge from Mothobi Mvala. Troost-Ekong assumed the responsibility from the spot and the Nigerian skipper tucked home under the body of Ronwen Williams to give Peseiro’s side a crucial lead.


South Africa knew a swift response was needed with time ticking into the final 20 minutes, and Makgopa came within inches of finding an equaliser when his powerful strike from the edge of the box flashed narrowly wide of the far post.


There was still time for a dramatic twist though, as Osimhen thought he’d scored a second for Nigeria, only for the goal to be ruled out after VAR spotted a late tackle from Alhassan Yusuf on Tau in the opposite penalty area moments before.


That sensationally gave Bafana Bafana a late lifeline, and Teboho Mokoena held his nerve from the spot to level the scores in the final minute of the 90’. Armed with the momentum, Hugo Broos’ men could have won it in the dying seconds of stoppage time, but Khuliso Mudau blazed over with the goal at his mercy.


After a gut-wrenching finale, the Super Eagles looked to regain their composure in ET, and Peseiro’s men were denied a clear-cut opportunity when substitute Terem Moffi was brought down by Grant Kekana with a free run on goal.



A red card was shown to the South African defender, but Nigeria were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage as the contest headed to the lottery of a shootout. Bafana Bafana missed two of their opening three spot-kicks, with Nwabili saving from Mokoena and Makgopa, and that allowed Kelechi Iheanacho to stroke home the decisive penalty sending Nigeria into Sunday’s showpiece against either hosts Ivory Coast or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The Ajasa News
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