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Nigeria edge South Africa in dramatic penalties after vintage AFCON drama sees Super Eagles barely reach final

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The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations served up some trademark drama on Wednesday as Nigeria advanced past South Africa on penalties but only after being made to sweat their place in Sunday’s final. It finished 4-2 after penalties and 1-1 after extra time but the final 10 minutes of the game will live long in the memory despite this Ivory Coast edition of the tournament already being extremely memorable on a number of occasions.

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The Super Eagles opened the scoring 23 minutes from full time in Bouake after William Troost-Ekong scored from the penalty spot to beat Bafana Bafana’s quarterfinal penalty hero Ronwen Williams at Stade de la Paix.

Victor Osimhen thought that he had sealed it for Nigeria with just minutes remaining of the regulatory 90 but then VAR stepped in to not only chalk off the SSC Napoli man’s goal but award South Africa a penalty at the other end.

Teboho Mokoena stepped up to convert from the spot with just added time remaining to spark scenes of jubilation among South African ranks and fury from their Nigerian opponents who thought that they had already done enough to reach the final.

Hugo Broos’ men went close again before the time added on had played out and almost capped the most dramatic of AFCON comebacks but it finished 1-1 to advance to extra time which saw Osimhen withdrawn after pregame injury concerns and Gran Kekana sent off with five minutes left.

The two could not be separated after 120 minutes so it went to penalties but Williams was unable to repeat his Cape Verde heroics with Jose Peseiro’s Super Eagles scoring all bar one of their penalties which Ola Aina blazed over.

Mokoena, who was successful from the spot in the regular 90 minutes, was denied by Stanley Nwabali, who also saved from Evidence Makgopa, which left Kelechi Iheanacho to score the winner to send Nigeria into the final.

It was harsh on South Africa, who had been heroic in eliminating pre-tournament favorites Morocco and edging plucky underdogs Cape Verde as well as pushing Tunisia out in the group stage, but it was not to be, and Broos’ bd for a second AFCON title fell short.

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