AFCON 2023: Super Eagles Beat S’Africa in Dramatic Shoot-outs to Qualify for Final

•Meet host country, Cote d’Ivoire, on Sunday

•Tinubu: our national team has made us proud

•Shettima, FG, Sanwo-Olu, Mbah, Abiodun hail victory over Bafana Bafana

Deji Elumoye in Abuja, Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja, Duro Ikhazuagbe in Lagos, and James Sowole in Abeokuta

After a tension-soaked match, which resulted in a dramatic penalty shoot-out, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, last night, booked their place in the finals of the 34th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire, by defeating South Africa’s Bafana Bafana 4-2.

By that stroke, the Super Eagles are due to meet the host nation, Cote D’Ivoire, in the AFCON finals on Sunday, the host having also defeated DR Congo 1-0 in their semi-final match.

President Bola Tinubu hailed the Super Eagles for making Nigerians proud in their semi-final victory over Bafana Bafana of South Africa.

Tinubu, in a post on his official Instagram handle, @officialasiwajubat, said, “From the southernmost cape of Africa to the plains and the coast of West Africa….You have made us all proud to be Nigerians. Go… Soar in the AFCON Finals. Well done, boys!”

On Wednesday, also, media assistant to Vice President Kashim Shettima, Stanley Nkwocha, in a release, said the presence of Shettima at the Bouake venue of the AFCON match served as a significant source of inspiration for the Nigerian team.

In the Nigeria-South Africa match, regulation and extra time amounting to 120 minutes of the pulsating football had deadlocked 1-1 without a clear winner.

Super Eagles goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, and forward, Kelechi Iheanacho, were the heroes for Nigeria during the shootout.

Nwabali saved two penalties, while Iheanacho, who came on as a late substitute for Ademola Lookman, sealed Nigeria’s qualification to the championship game with the decisive penalty kick goal.

Bafana Bafana’s Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa’s penalty kicks were saved by Nwabali, while only Ola Aina blasted his penalty wide over the bar on the Nigerian side.

The scorers for Eagles included Terem Moffi, Kenneth Omeruo, and William Troost-Ekong.

Both goals in the regulation time were equally scored via penalty kicks.

Nigerian captain, Troost-Ekong, tucked into the net the resulting penalty from the fouling of Victor Osimhen in the box by Mothobi Mvala in the 64th minute.

While Nigerians were celebrating an Osimhen added second goal deep in the second half, VAR replay of Alhassan Yusuf’s kicking of Percy Tau in the Nigerian box gifted the South Africans a penalty.

It was also perfectly tucked into the Nigerian net by Teboho Mokoena in the 90th minute, forcing the semi-final to drag into extra time.

In extra-time, South African defender Grant Kekana was sent off for a professional foul on Terem Moffi.

The Super Eagles created the first danger of the game in the 13th minute, but somehow goalkeeper Ronwen Williams got a fingertip to a cross on the left by Ola Aina to deny Osimhen a chance to head home.

Just before the half hour mark, Osimhen was blocked from trying an audacious effort from distance after he had sighted the South African goalkeeper was well off his lines. Thereafter, South Africa took control of the game.

Nwabali saved off the feet of Percy Tau in the 35th minute, before the Chippa United goalkeeper pulled off an even better save four minutes after, when he stretched full length to keep out a shot by Evidence Makgopa.

Before the penalty shootout, there were anxious moments among Nigerian football fans given the four penalty kicks that South Africa’s goalkeeper, Williams, saved against Cape Verde in their quarter final clash.

They feared that he might turn out to be Nigeria’s nemesis in the quest by the Super Eagles to qualify for the finals. But at the end, thunder failed to strike twice, with the Nigerian team qualifying to play in the finals on February 11.

It will be Nigeria’s eighth finals since the country’s participation in the African football showpiece, which it won thrice as hosts in 1980, 1994, and 2013.

Defeated semi-finalists, South Africa and DR Congo, will play for the consolation third place match on Saturday.

Tinubu hailed the Super Eagles for making Nigeria proud.

Media assistant to Shettima, who was present at the Bouake venue of the AFCON semi-final match, stated, in a release, “The Super Eagles of Nigeria have secured their place in the finals of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations after a thrilling victory over South Africa in the semi-final.

“The match, held at the Stade de la Paix in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, saw Nigeria overcome their opponents on penalties after extra time.

“Their performance throughout the tournament has been marked by exceptional talent, determination, and resilience, captivating the hearts of fans nationwide.

“While the precise factors behind the team’s success remain multifaceted, the presence of His Excellency, Vice President Kashim Shettima, undoubtedly, served as a significant source of inspiration. His unwavering support and belief in the team’s capabilities resonated deeply with the players and fans alike.

“As the Super Eagles prepare for the finals, the nation stands united in support, eager to witness them etch their names in footballing history. The entire country await their return with bated breath, confident that they will deliver their best performance yet and bring the AFCON trophy home.”

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, conveyed the federal government’s commendation of the Super Eagles, in a statement, after the adrenaline pumping 4-2 penalty shootout victory, describing the Eagles performance as the stuff of legends.

Idris applauded the Super Eagles for displaying remarkable talent, determination, and teamwork throughout the match. He said the players showcased the true spirit of Nigerian football.

The minister said through their indomitable spirit in pursuit of victory, the Eagles were now on the verge of clinching the coveted trophy for Nigeria. He said as the national team looked forward to the final match, the nation and the government remained firmly behind them, while expressing confidence in their ability to emerge victorious on Sunday and bring home the Nations Cup once again.

“The entire nation rallies behind the Super Eagles as they prepare to make history and write their names in gold in African and global football,” Idris stated.

He urged all Nigerians to continue to support and cheer the Super Eagles as they strove for greatness in the final match, stressing that the team carries the hopes and aspirations of an entire nation on their shoulders.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, “I rejoice with our marvellous Super Eagles for achieving this feat. And Lagos is proud of them and our country is equally proud of them.

“I salute them for their doggedness and determination.  Lagos stands fully behind them all the way to victory on Sunday. They have been amazing in their performance.

“The entire state is cheering them on to victory on Sunday. We are bringing Lagosians to Onikan Stadium to watch and cheer them to victory.”

In the statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, Sanwo-Olu said, “I am so proud of our Super Eagles for finding that extra tenacity to push through.

“From Nwabali, with the in-match and penalty heroics, to Ekong to Osimhen, for taking initiative to help us score in the match, and to the silent hero, Coach José Peseiro, everyone dug deep to give us this one.”

The governor implored Nigerians, especially Lagos residents, to come out in their millions to show support and solidarity with the Super Eagles during the final game, at the Bolaji Johnson Sport Arena and 26 other viewing centres across the state on Sunday.

Similarly, the governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, congratulated the Super Eagles on their hard won victory against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. Mbah said the Eagles were undoubtedly super, both in mentality and display in the semi-final outing.

Taking to his social media handles, Mbah wrote, “Hearty congratulations, Super Eagles, on your qualification for the finals of AFCON 2023.

“That was a breath-taking encounter, but you were undoubtedly super in mentality and display.

“Thank you for making us super proud and best wishes in the final of the competition. Our prayers are with you. Congratulations, Nigeria!”

Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun described the victory of the Super Eagles over South Africa as well-deserved.

Abiodun, in a congratulatory message to the national football team and the entire country, praised the players for their outstanding performance against the South Africans.

Abiodun expressed delight and pride in the team’s remarkable victory. He commended the players, coaching staff, and the entire Nigerian football fraternity for their dedication and hard work.

The governor said, in a statement last night, “The Super Eagles have once again proven their mettle on the international stage, showcasing their exceptional skills and determination.

“I am incredibly proud of their achievement in securing a well-deserved spot in the Africa Cup of Nations finals. This victory is a testament to the strength and unity of our beloved country, Nigeria.

“The Super Eagles have shown the world what it means to be a team, fighting together to achieve a common goal.”

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