BOUAKÉ, Ivory Coast – In a thrilling Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) semifinal showdown, Nigeria secured a hard-fought 4-2 victory on penalties against South Africa after a tense 1-1 draw in regular time and extra time.
Super Eagles substitute Kelechi Iheanacho emerged as the hero, clinching the win for the three-time champions.
The match, played in Bouaké, saw both regular-time goals coming from penalties.
Nigeria’s captain, William Troost-Ekong, broke the deadlock in the 67th minute, only for South Africa’s Teboho Mokoena to equalize with a 90th-minute spot-kick.
The encounter was not short of drama.
Nigeria thought they had secured a second goal through Victor Osimhen, only for VAR to intervene, awarding South Africa a penalty after Percy Tau was fouled in the area.
Khuliso Mudau had a chance to seal victory for South Africa in added time, but his shot blazed over the bar.
The tension heightened as the match went into extra time, with South Africa reduced to 10 men after Grant Kekana was sent off for a last-defender foul.
Nigeria’s victory sets up a tantalizing final clash against the winner of the Ivory Coast vs Democratic Republic of Congo match.
Reflecting on the game, Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro praised his team’s resilience, stating, “It was a hard-fought match, and credit to South Africa for putting up a tough challenge. Our players showed great character, especially in the face of adversity.”
On the other hand, South Africa coach Hugo Broos lamented missed opportunities, saying, “We had our chances to win the game, but football can be cruel at times. Nevertheless, I’m proud of my team’s performance throughout the tournament.”
The victory marks Nigeria’s continued dominance over South Africa in AFCON history, maintaining their perfect record against their opponents in the premier African football competition.
The rejuvenated Super Eagles will now turn their focus to the final showdown as they aim to clinch their fourth AFCON title.