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AFCON 2023: Nigeria reach the final 11 years later

CAN 2023-Nigeria
AFCON 2023: Nigeria reach the final 11 years later

The first semi-final of the AFCON 2023 has delivered its verdict. Nigeria claimed the scalp of South Africa on penalties (4-2) after a 1-1 draw in regulation time and extra time. The Supers Eagles return to the final for the first time since 2013, when they were last crowned champions.

The first team to qualify for the AFCON 2023 final is now known. In the semi-final on Wednesday February 07, Nigeria beat South Africa 1-1, 4-2, to qualify for the final. The Nigerians set the pace from the outset. As early as the 1st minute, Osimhen attempted an incursion, but Mvala's tackle in the box prevented the 2023 African Player of the Year from creating a golden opportunity. Nevertheless, the biggest opportunity fell to South Africa. In the 27th minute, Percy Tau inherited the ball on the edge of the area but his shot, which lacked power, went straight into the path of Nigerian goalkeeper Nwabali. Bafana Bafana grew bolder and were now in control. Percy Tau again came close to opening the scoring (36th), but the left-handed player missed his marker to deny him a one-on-one.


Iwobi followed up with a long-range shot that was easily saved by Ronwen Williams. South Africa responded in kind. Makgopa, on the receiving end of a pass from Tau, fired in a magnificent shot which, unfortunately for him, was deflected by Nwabali, who perfectly deployed his six-foot frame. Osimhen tried his luck with a header from a corner (44th), but missed the target. The Nigerians and South Africans returned to the locker room with a 0-0 scoreline at the interval.


Breathless suspense

In the second half, the boxing match continued. Nigeria and South Africa, aware of what was at stake, went head-to-head. The first turning point came in the 65th minute. Victor Osimhen inherited the ball and dribbled past three opponents. The Neapolitan was then brought down in the area by Mvala. Penalty.Captain Troos-Ekong converted the penalty to give his side the lead with a shot that Ronwen Williams almost saved (67th). Makgopa tried to respond in the 74th minute with a superb pivotal move, but his shot flew centimetres wide. In the 85th minute, a twist worthy of an Alfred Hitchcock film occurred. Victor Osimhen thought he had doubled the lead for the Super Eagles. However, after consulting VAR, the referee cancelled out the goal because Percy Tau was fouled at the start. It was a penalty for South Africa.

The metronome Mokoena struck his shot successfully to equalize (1-1, 89th min). The Nigerians are shaking, while the South Africans are pushing for the second goal.Makgopa's acrobatic overhead kick sailed over the Nigerian goal.Hugo Broos' men had a chance in the 96th minute, with Mudau alone in front of goal after Mokoena's free-kick had been parried by Nwabali but the South African defender shot over.  The two sides finally went into extra time.

Nwabali, hero of the eveningJosé Peseiro decided to throw everything he had into the extra time. Victor Osimhen, exhausted, gave way to Terem Moffi, who played his first minutes in this competition. A few moments later, the man from Nice proved decisive, earning Kekena a red card (114th min). As the two teams drew level, it was time for a penalty shoot-out. In the shoot-out, Nigeria won 4-2, with two saves from Nwabali.

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