Super Eagles goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, saved two penalties in the shootout to guide Nigeria to a 4-2 victory over South Africa after a 1-1 draw and secured a place in the final of the ongoing 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cote d’Ivoire.
Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored the decisive penalty to seal a 4-2 penalty shootout win as Nigeria survived VAR drama to reach their first AFCON final after 2013 when they last won the competition in South Africa.
Nigeria dominated the early first half but struggled to pick holes in South Africa’s well-organised rear guard, with Bafana Bafana targeting the space behind the Eagles defence and that clarity of purpose helped them look the more dangerous side.
Nigeria looked to have sealed the game when Victor Osimhen finished a terrific counter, but a VAR check caused incredible drama in Bouake. The Napoli star’s strike was ruled out and South Africa were awarded a penalty following substitute Alhassan Yusuf’s rash challenge.
Teboho Mokoena duly dispatched and set up some nervy closing stages for Nigeria, who clung on before an end-to-end extra-time period.
The Super Eagles also thought they had won another penalty in the 113th minute when Terem Moffi went down under a challenge from Grant Kekana as he raced through on goal.
The Ref checked the incident on the pitchside monitor and then showed Kekana a straight red card, but awarded a free-kick instead of a spot-kick as contact had been made inches outside the 18-yard area, with penalties ultimately needed to separate the two sides. Kelechi Iheanacho was the hero as Stanley Nwabali starred in goal to send the Super Eagles through.
Nigeria progressed to their first AFCON final since 2013, when they beat Burkina Faso 1-0 thanks to a Sunday Mba’s strike. That was their third continental crown after previous wins in 1980 and 1994 editions of the biggest continental soccer showpiece.