Nigeria’s Super Eagles Soar Past South Africa Into AFCON Final
Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored to give Nigeria a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over South Africa onafter an Africa Cup of Nations semi-final thriller in Bouake.
The match finished 1-1 after extrathree-time champions will face hosts Ivory Coast or the Democratic Republic of Congo, who meet later, in the final on Sunday.
Both regular-time goals also came from penalties with captain William Troost-Ekong scoring after 67 minutes for Nigeria and Teboho Mokoenafrom a 90th-minute spot-kick.
The Mokoena equaliser came after Nigeria thought they had scored a second goal throughstar forward Victor Osimhen.
But play was called back to the other end of the field after VAR alerted the Egyptian referee that South African Percy Tau had been fouled in thematch official concurred.
Khuliso Mudau had a chance to winSouth Africa in added time at the end of regular blazed over after goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali parried a Mokoena free kick.
South Africa finished with 10 men when Grant Kekana was sent offfor a last-defender foul.
Nigeria entered the match with arecord against South Africa in the premier African football competition having won three previous meetings.
The Super Eagles beat Bafana Bafana (The Boys) 2-0 in a 2000 semi-final in Nigeria, 4-0 in a group match four years later in Tunisia and 2-1 in a 2019 quarter-final in Egypt.
Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro made one change to the team that beat Angolain Bright Osayi-Samuel for left-back Zaidu Sanusi, who did not train on the eve of the match.
Star Napoli forward Osimhen started for the three-time champions after recoveringdiscomfort that delayed his arrival in Bouake from Abidjan.
Some Nigerians in the stadium demonstrated their support for Osimhen by wearing replicas of the protective facial mask he stillthree years after suffering an eye socket injury.
Belgium-born South Africa coach Hugo Broos also made one changeon penalties over Cape central defender Siyanda Xulu recalled and Thapelo Morena dropping to the bench.
South Africa hadof shots at goal, but more on target, possession, and forced more corners in a tense, lively opening half.
Barely a minute after the kick-off, reigning African Player of the Year Osimhen knelt clutching his abdomen, but he continued after treatment and worked tirelessly.
When pre-match favourites Nigeria were awarded a free-kick, Semi Ajayi headed tamely at goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, who saved four shootout penalties against Cape Verde.
Percy Tau had a couple of half-chances for South Africa, but a weak shot andheavy first touch let him down before a 32,000 crowd.
Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, who plays for South African top-flight club Chippa United, produced aone-hand parry to foil Evidence Makgopa as half-time approached.
With the Super Eagles in the ascendancy, the deadlock ended midway through the secondMothobi Mvala fouled Osimhen and Troost-Ekong converted the penalty.
Makgopa fired narrowly wide with 15 minutes remaining as South Africa chased an equaliser in the central Ivorian city.
Then came the disallowed Osimhen goal, the Mokoena equaliser, the Mudau miss and 30 minutes of end-to-endaction, including a red card for Kekana, before the shootout.