February 08, (THEWILL) – While Nigerians celebrated through Wednesday night, the talking points of the Super Eagles victory over South Africa’s Bafana Bafana continued into Thursday as Nigeria booked their place in the AFCON 2024 final with a dramatic penalty shootout win.
The talking points have centred around how the semifinal match was nearly marred by what some deemed a controversial VAR call and how the last-minute equaliser and missed opportunities throughout the tough semi-final kept fans on the edge of their seats before Nigeria finally prevailed 4-2 on penalties.
Most commenters agree that the key moment came late in regulation time when Victor Osimhen’s apparent goal was disallowed by VAR due to a foul, leading instead to South Africa being awarded a penalty that Teboho Mokoena converted to force extra time.
With the clock winding down in extra time, South Africa had a golden chance to win but Khuliso Mudau missed, sending the nerve-jangling clash to penalties.
There, the consensus remains that Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, the Man of the Match, emerged the shootout hero with his crucial saves that locked up the victory. Captain William Troost-Ekong, who had scored in regulation play, also scored with substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the winning penalty to cap a full team effort.
For the most part, debaters have argued that players like Ola Aina, who missed his penalty by shooting high over the bar, and Osimhen, who was subbed off for the first penalty taker Terem Moffi, also made vital contributions as Nigeria earned their berth in Sunday’s final against Ivory Coast.
The coach, Jose Peseiro, made three crucial tactical substitutions that influenced the outcome of the match against South Africa. Peseiro brought in Moffi for his obvious penalty-taking ability. Kenneth Omeruo’s introduction in the 120th minute also stabilised the defence and thwarted South Africa’s scoring attempts and he was a confident penalty taker in the end.
Additionally, Iheanacho, who had not played earlier in the tournament, successfully converted the decisive penalty. Peseiro’s strategic shift from high pressing to a low defensive block aimed to conserve energy, resulting in a potent attack and solid defence for Nigeria.
Now, the Super Eagles will be keen to capture an elusive fourth AFCON crown to reinforce their status as one of Africa’s preeminent footballing powers. Their resilience in overcoming a spirited South African side on Wednesday, may stand them in good stead when they face the hosts Ivory Coast that they beat in the Group phase, but with the title on the line this time.
About the Author
Jude Obafemi is a versatile senior Correspondent at THEWILL Newspapers, excelling in sourcing, researching, and delivering sports news stories for both print and digital publications.