Bafana Bafana will have a chance to play for the bronze medal after losing to Nigeria in the Afcon semi-finals last night.
The boys, who gave a spirited performance, came from a goal down to equalize – courtesy of a penalty by Teboho Mokoena.
Nigeria are through to the Afcon final after a dramatic penalty shootout win against South Africa with the Super Eagles, prevailing 4-2 on penalties following a captivating 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
At the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, this semi-final produced twists and turns fitting of any Nollywood thriller.
Nigeria looked to have won it when Victor Osimhen scored late on, only for VAR to instead award South Africa a lifeline penalty.
Bafana Bafana converted to force extra time before penalties ensued.
There, goalkeeping heroics from Stanley Nwabali gave Nigeria the edge in the shootout. His two saves booked the Super Eagles’ passage to Sunday’s final.
As Nwabali wheeled away in celebration, joy unconfined for Nigeria, this was agony for South Africa.
Bafana Bafana’s keeper Ronwen Williams, who saved four penalties last round, was inconsolable as his Afcon dream died.
Nigeria will face either Cote d’Ivoire DR Congo on Sunday, hoping to capture their fourth African crown.
Nigeria made the early running in a cagey first half. The lively Iwobi brought the best from Williams, whose reflex save kept things goalless. South Africa responded in kind, with Evidence Makgopa curling just wide before Percy Tau was thwarted when clean through.
The tension ratcheted after the break as both keepers took centre stage. Nwabali acrobatically denied Makgopa once more, while at the other end Williams stood firm to repel Osimhen.
That set the scene for high drama in the closing stages. Nigeria earned a 67th minute penalty when Osimhen was flattened, which Troost-Ekong converted emphatically.
Sensing blood, a frenzied Nigeria pressed for the killer second. They thought they had it through Osimhen, but VAR intervened to spot an earlier foul. South Africa were awarded a lifeline penalty instead, dispatched by Mokoena.
So to extra time, where fatigue stifled attacking fluency. With legs heavy and nerves jangling, a shootout felt inevitable. Williams and Nwabali then took the spotlight.
While Williams correctly guessed the direction of two Nigerian penalties, his hands couldn’t match his intuition. Nwabali showed no such mercy, diving to deny both Mokoena and Mayambela.
As Nigeria soak up the raptures of reaching the final, Williams is left inconsolable. Four days ago he was the hero, now South Africa’s brokenhearted goalkeeper.
Nigeria now stand one win away from a fourth African crown. Propelled by Nwabali’s shootout brilliance, Sunday’s final sees them as a strong contenders for the title. Written by Ntsako Mkhari
— Lorenz Köhler (@Lorenz_KO) February 7, 2024
We fought our fight! And will continue doing so till the end! Thank you again South Africa for standing with us throughout #TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 #AFCON2023 #BafanaPride ❤️🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/XzfTUufmya
— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) February 7, 2024
Hard luck boys, you gave it your best shot..
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a fighting Bafana, you can be proud of your campaign.. pic.twitter.com/xNUcPyBWcs
— Thomas Mlambo (@thomasmlambo) February 7, 2024
Shoutout to Bafana Bafana 👏🏽 They won our hearts! ♥️ pic.twitter.com/Lxp04YmNL7
— GOAL South Africa (@GOALcomSA) February 7, 2024
You fought like warriors at AFCON @BafanaBafana. You are an inspiration to many with your performances in the tournament. Through you, we now have sufficient building blocks for the next World Cup. Phambili Bafana Bafana! #BafanaPride #AFCON2023 pic.twitter.com/p8N5Eci9n5
— Minister of Sport, Arts & Culture (@zizikodwa) February 7, 2024
Written by: Lindiwe Mabena