BLOW BY BLOW | Nigeria edge Bafana on penalties in superb Afcon semifinal

07 February 2024 - 18:05
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Bafana Bafana's Sphephelo Sithole challenges Nigeria's Frank Onyeka in the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal at Stade de la Paix in Bouake in Ivory Coast on Wednesday.
Bafana Bafana's Sphephelo Sithole challenges Nigeria's Frank Onyeka in the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal at Stade de la Paix in Bouake in Ivory Coast on Wednesday.
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

**** — After Full time (1-1) and extra time, Nigeria win 4-2 on penalties - ****

Ultimately, on balance of chances Nigeria deserved to win the semifinal, and the Super Eagles deserve to be in the final. But brave Bafana not at all disgraced — this can be a turning point for South African football — but only if the administrators in the game build on this superb tournament performance.

One can feel only pride at how competitive Hugo Broos's men were — in this semifinal, in this Afcon. Take a bow boys, come back stronger in Afcon 2025 and World Cup 2026.

Nigeria fifth kick — NIG 4 RSA 2

Iheanacho scores!!!!! The Super Eagles win. Brave Bafana are out, but play for third place on Saturday!

Nigeria are into the final.

Bafana fourth third kick — NIG 3 RSA 2

Mvala scores!

Nigeria fourth kick — NIG 3 RSA 1

Troost-Ekong scores!

Bafana third kick — NIG 2 RSA 1 

Makgopa tame shot saved!

Nigeria third kick — NIG 2 RSA 1

Aina blasts over!

Bafana second kick — NIG 2 RSA 1 

Mayambela scores.

Nigeria second kick — NIG 2 RSA 0

Kenneth Omeruo scores.

Bafana first kick — NIG 1 RSA 0 

Mokoena misses!

Nigeria first kick — NIG 1 RSA 

Terem Moffi scores!

**** — End of Extra time — 1-1 — Afcon semifinal goes to penalties - ****

Nigeria will kick first.

120min + 3

It's the end ... its's penalties! Ronwen Williams up to the plate! What a magnificent 120 minutes.


Nkosinathi Sibisi on for Lepasa.

Big free-kick here for Nigeria with 2min left, though there will be a bit of added time now. Kelechi Iheanacho strikes fairly tamely for Williams to take.

115min — Red card

Referee Omar consults VAR, it's a free-kick, red card to Kekana.


Nigeria sub Terem Moffi brought down by Grant Kekana after being through one-on-one. VAR checking. Might have been outside the box!!


The more Bafana can slow it and keep possession the better; the more Nigeria can be frustrated the better, the less opportunity the Super Eagles have for that very quick, powerful attack the better.

Bafana not playing for penalties — they will believe they can sneak a winner. SA also not NOT playing for penalties ...

106 min

Osimhen up to head over.


The last 15min is under way.

105min + 1

Half time in extra time. There are 15min left to decide the semi in regulation time.


After a brief technical hitch we are back. What next on this night? Osimhen had a strong, low shot stopped buy Williams. Sub Samuel Chukwueze causing Bafana many problems on the run. 

Williams standing tall and firm so far in this extra time.


Phew. Some respite in the action. Breathe South Africa, breathe.

Bafana might be a bit relieved if the pace can slow a bit.

But when Nigeria have the ball they have pace and power. Big challenge fro Mudau stops a sprint by Osimhen.


Lookman shot, Williams makes the save.


The game is back ... here we go ...

**** Full time — 1-1 - ****

That was just a finish of purely insane proportions. Bafana must now believe they just might be able to do this. Nigeria also know they can boss Bafana. This will be a ridiculous half-hour. Hold onto your seats, your family members, your pets — try not break your TVs. This is madness.

90min + 7

That's the whistle. It's extra time. Just spectacular. The Springboks did this to us! Now Bafana are doing this to us. This Bafana never die!

90min + 6

Mokoena has 30m a free-kick parried by Nwabili ... Mudau on the follow-up blasts over with open goal beckoning!!!

90min — GOAL! NIG 1 RSA 1

Goaaalllllllll!!!!!! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goooooooaaallllllll!!!!! Go-go-go-darn-goaaaallll!!!!

Bafana are level!!!!!

Mokoena from the spot! Mokoena strikes to the left of Nwabili. This is just crazy!!! This Bafana never die!


Teboho Mokoena to take!

87min — Penalty to RSA!

VAR awards penalty to South Africa!!!!!!!! Foul at the other end on Tau!!!


Not a goal!!!! Lookman runs into space on the left to set it up, Osimhen taps over the line. (Might be VAR though)! VAR awards penalty to South Africa!!!!


Bafana seem a bit out of ideas. It will take something special to get an equaliser ... 8min to go, plus added time, which shouldn't be a lot.


First changes from Broos. Mihlali Mayambela and Zakhele Lepasa on for Xulu and Zwane.


Makgopa turns on the left edge of the box and unleashes a scorching low shot past the right upright.

67min — GOAL! NIG 1 RSA 0

GOOOOAALLL!!! Troost-Ekong rolls it down the middle, literally under Williams, who almost got a touch. The Super Eagles have the lead! Bafana have to fight back. But just 23min plus added time remain. Can SA really come back from this?

64min — Penalty!

Osimhen down ... penalty to Nigeria!!!!!!!! Mothobi Mvala clatters down the Napoli striker. William Troost-Ekong to take. He's up against Williams


Osimhen up in the box to win a header, but it loops over the bar.


Tau scuffed effort wide after a few moments earlier being muscled off the ball on the left of the box by Ola Aina.


Mzansi, how are you doing out there??!! Far too tense. Far too tense. Far too tense. How will we get through this?


And the game is back ... no changes.


... and, perhaps, this is where Hugo Broos might be so clever. There was no Thapelo Maseko to come off the bench — he's out of the tournament. Having left Thapelo Morena out in his changes, the coach has someone with pace and venom who can come on at some stage. Will be interesting to see when. Can Zakele Lepasa or the young Jayden Adams also do something after the break?

**** Half Time — 0-0 - ****

Wow. OK. Bafana Bafana not holding their own, but actually edging that opening half! The South Africans have looked good. Nigeria a bit flat.

Tau with one of his liveliest games so far in this Afcon. He likes playing against Nigeria. Zwane influential. The two of them seem crucial. Makgopa one excellent chance.

For Nigeria, Ademola Lookman so far rather quiet. Osimhen is also quiet — seems it wasn't mind games, he even looks like he still has some discomfort with stomach illness.

Super Eagles really should come out firing in the second half. Bafana need to be stronger in the second 45 minutes than some of their matches in this Afcon. But their two goals in the shock of Morocco came after the break. Can they do something like that again?

A huge second half awaits!

45min + 2

That's the break — referee Omar blows for half time and it's still 0-0 in Bouaké.


Into 2min of added time, it's still 0-0.


Super Eagles still so dangerous of course. Either team could score here ... 3min plus added time to go. Nigeria putting some pressure before the break and earn a corner. Osimhen heads it well wide with a poor connection.


Maybe a bit flat from Nigeria for the last 25min or so? Bafana even edging it in that period.


Big chance for Bafana ... Tau on the edge of the box tees up Evidence Makgopa who has a great shot that forces a good, reflex, one-handed stop from Nwabili.


Iwobi shoots from range, swerves a bit, but also straight at Williams.


Ball over the top in the left channel finds the run of Tau, whose touch is too heavy. Dangerous again though.


Play is back. Tau and Zwane are the surviving members of the Bafana who won their only competitive match against Nigeria 2-0 in Uyo in an Afcon qualifier under Stuart Baxter in 2017. They seem crucial on this semi.

Zwane hit the post twice in Uyo, Tau scored. Nigeria seem wary of them.


It's a water break. An even opening half-hour, maybe Bafana getting a foothold in this game.


Zwane lays off for Percy Tau next to him in the area who shoots tamely at Nwabili.


Then, nice strong run up the right from Khuliso Mudau — that's what Bafana want from their right wingback — but he can't get the cross in with Zwane calling for it in the middle.


Another silky, fluent attack for Bafana and crucial challenge by Semi Ajayi stops Zwane from getting through on the left.


By the way, two excellent build-up stories to this match ... perhaps for the readers' perusal at half time.

Sazi Hadebe on the Bafana players' scorecard so far, and Mahlatse Mphahlele, from Abidjan, reports on an unsung hero for SA, video analyst Sinesipho Mali ... see below:


Bafana certainly holding their own for the opening passages, and some good balls into the area. Nigeria of course look dangerous when they turn on the muscle and pace in attack.

Super Eagles seem wary of Bafana ... for now ...


At the other, end, a nice passing movement ends with Sphephelo Sithole shooting somewhat tamely at Nwabili.


A cross in from the left from Alex Iwobi and Williams gets up with a finger-tip push with Osimhen up dangerously for the header just behind the keeper.

Crucial touch.


It's a cagey start. Very cagey. The stakes are high. Both teams start sizing each other up, Nigeria harassing physically, Bafana trying to get their foot on the ball and also get some long passes into the box for the runners to chase.


Themba Zwane dangerously chases a long ball into the box, Chippa United keeper Stanley Nwabili takes ahead of him.


And we are off!

Almost an early chance for Nigeria.

Osimhen goes down clutching his abdomen.


Kickoff a little late ...

The match officials are:

Referee: Amin Omar, Egypt

Assistant referees: Mahmoud Abouelregal, Ahmed Ibrahim, both Egypt

Fourth official: Mahmood Ismail, Sudan


And the teams take to the field, and the anthems begin, Nigeria first, and then to kickoff ...


And yes, OK, there are a few surprises. 

A line-up that has not changed since the second match of the tournament, the 4-0 win against Namibia, has been changed by coach Hugo Broos, and by more than most would have predicted.

Siyanda Xulu comes back in at centreback for the first time since his defensive error in the 2-0 opening defeat to Mali.

The player out is winger Thapelo Morena. And Broos seems to have switched from the 4-4-1-1 used in the last four games to three at the back.

The new formation appears to be a 3-4-3.

This will be corrected later if it is wrong, but it seems it's Ronwen Williams at goalkeeper behind central defenders Grant Kekana, Xulu and Mothobi Mvala. Then Khuliso Mudau (right) and Maphosa Modiba (left) are the wingbacks outside of Sphephelo Sithole and Teboho Mokoena in the midfield. 

Upfront it's Percy Tau and Themba Zwane behind and wide of Evidence Makgopa.

Fascinating. Good to change things up, keep the opposition guessing. It looks a very hard formation to break down, if Xulu can keep up with the pace of the Nigerian attack. And it could be really effective in attack if the wingbacks get high,

Well, only the match will tell!

And for Nigeria, yes, it seems it night have been mind games from the NFF, as Victor Osimhen starts. 

Bafana XI: Ronwen Williams (capt); 18. Grant Kekana, 14. Mothobi Mvala, 5. Siyanda Xulu; 20. Khuliso Mudau, 13. Sphephelo Sithole, 4. Teboho Mokoena, 6. Maphosa Modiba; 10. Percy Tau, 11. Themba Zwane, 9. Evidence Makgopa

Nigeria: 23. Stanley Nwabili, 2. Ola Aina, 6. Semi Ajayi, 21. Calvin Bassey, 17. Alex Iwobi, 18. Ademola Lookman, 8. Frank Onyeka, 12. Bright Osayi-Samuel, 9. Victor Osimhen, 15. Moses Simon, 5. William Troost-Ekong (capt)

Wednesday February 7 — 5.50pm

This is it! Easily Bafana Bafana's biggest match since the 2010 World Cup. 

Bafana Bafana meet the nemesis, the stumbling block, but a team they have matched quite well in recent years, Nigeria, in their Africa Cup of Nations semifinal at Stade de la Paix in Bouaké, Ivory Coast, on Wednesday (7pm, SA time).

SA, slayers of Morocco and Cape Verde, the reason for Tunisia's exit, the underdogs and relishing that role against the proud Super Eagles. It's always a grudge match between these two.

Bafana's historic first semifinal in 24 years, since 2000, playing for a place in their first final in 26 years. It does not get much bigger for a team that has an opportunity to turn around, and to some extent already has turned around, two decades of international underachievement. 

Your live blogger this evening, on this huge occasion, is TimesLIVE and Arena Holdings Digital Sports editor Marc Strydom. A quick qualifier is that your blogger is not in the stadium for this Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.

Mahlatse Mphahlele is in Stade de la Paix for TimesLIVE. Catch his match report later, and analysis and follow-ups in the coming days as Afcon heads to Abidjan for the third-place playoff on Saturday and final on Sunday (both 10pm SA time).

And the starting line-ups have been released. Stay tuned as they follow ...

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now