Nigeria moved to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final for the first time since winning the competition in 2013.



The African nation of Nigeria pushed to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final for the first time since winning the competition in 2013, after defeating South Africa 4-2 on penalties in a thrilling semi-final.

Nigeria, having won four consecutive games ‘to nil’ in the tournament, went to Bouaké full of confidence in search of an eighth final appearance. A clash against South Africa, who were playing in their first AFCON semi-final in 24 years, promised to be a stern test, and that was reflected in a cagey start, with neither side able to gain control of the game.

After easing into the game, Bafana Bafana had a golden opportunity to take the lead shortly before the half-hour mark, but Percy Tau could only direct his shot straight into Stanley Nwabili’s arms.

South Africa remained the more dangerous of the two teams as halftime approached, and Nwabili had to be alert in the Nigeria goal to expertly divert Evidence Makgopa’s curled strike around the post.

Grateful for the reprieve, José Peseiro’s team took advantage of the break and returned to the game with renewed vigour, as Victor Osimhen wasted a header over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Super Eagles’ frontman made amends shortly after when his driving run into the box was cut short by a clumsy challenge from Mothobi Mvala. Troost-Ekong took over from the spot, and the Nigerian skipper tucked home under Ronwen Williams’ body to give Peseiro’s team a crucial lead.

South Africa knew a quick response was required as the clock ticked down to the final 20 minutes, and Makgopa came within inches of equalizing when his powerful strike from the edge of the box flashed narrowly past the far post.

There was still time for a dramatic twist, as Osimhen thought he’d scored Nigeria’s second goal, only for it to be ruled out by VAR due to a late tackle on Tau by Alhassan Yusuf in the opposite penalty area moments earlier.

That sensationally provided Bafana Bafana with a late lifeline, and Teboho Mokoena held his nerve from the spot to level the scores in the final minute of the 90′.

Hugo Broos’ side had momentum and could have won in the dying seconds of stoppage time, but Khuliso Mudau blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

After a heartbreaking finale, the Suger Eagles looked to regain their composure in extra time, but Peseiro’s side were denied a clear-cut opportunity when substitute Terem Moffi was brought down by Grant Kekana with a free run on goal. The South African defender was shown a red card, but Nigeria were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage, forcing the game into a shootout.

Bafana Bafana missed two of their first three spot-kicks, with Nwabili saving from Mokoena and Makgopa, allowing Kelechi Iheanacho to strike home the decisive penalty.

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