In a thrilling encounter at Bouake, Nigeria secured their place in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with a dramatic 4-2 shootout victory over South Africa. The game ended 1-1 after normal time, with Tabaha Mokoena’s late penalty cancelling out William Troost-Ekong’s earlier spot-kick for Nigeria.
The match was not short on drama, as the referee had to consult the video monitor to disallow a goal from Victor Osimhen, awarding a penalty instead to South Africa, which Mokoena converted to level the score in the 90th minute. Extra time ensued, during which South Africa’s Grant Kekana was sent off.
Despite South Africa’s efforts, Nigeria held their nerve in the shootout, with Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the winning penalty to send his team to the final, where they would face Ivory Coast.
Nigeria’s victory marked their fourth continental final appearance and their first since 2013. The Super Eagles had a perfect record against South Africa in the Nations Cup, having won all three of their previous encounters, including a semifinal clash in 2000.
However, Nigeria struggled to find their rhythm in the first half, with South Africa dominating possession. Percy Tau had the best chance for South Africa but failed to capitalize, shooting straight at Nigerian goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.
The second half saw Nigeria come out with more intent, and they broke the deadlock in the 67th minute when Osimhen was fouled in the penalty area, allowing Troost-Ekong to convert from the spot.
Nigeria appeared to have sealed the win when Osimhen scored late in normal time, only for the goal to be disallowed after a VAR review. Instead, South Africa was awarded a penalty, which Mokoena converted to force extra time.
The drama continued in extra time, with Kekana’s sending off and Nigeria being awarded a free-kick just outside the area. Although Iheanacho drew a save from South African goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, the match ultimately went to penalties.
Nwabali emerged as the hero for Nigeria, saving spot-kicks from Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa. With Iheanacho’s winning penalty, Nigeria secured their place in the final, capping off a thrilling encounter and setting up a showdown with Ivory Coast.
The victory was a testament to Nigeria’s resilience and determination, as they overcame setbacks and adversity to reach the final of the Africa Cup of Nations. With their eyes set on the trophy, the Super Eagles would be eager to put on a strong performance and clinch their fourth continental title.