Nigeria Face Cote d’Ivoire In First AFCON Final Since 2013

The Super Eagles will battle hosts the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) final on Sunday.

It is the first time the Nigerian senior national team will be in the final since it last won the continental trophy in 2013.

The Super Eagles overcame the Bafana Bafana of South Africa 4-2 yesterday on penalties after the match ended one goal apiece during regulation and extra time.

In the pulsating encounter, Nigeria had scored first via a penalty dispatched by Captain William Troost-Ekong  in the 67th minute after Victor Osimhen was fouled in the Bafana Bafana 18-yard box. Nigeria later conceded also via a penalty in the 90th minute after  Alhasan Yusuf tripped a Bafana Bafana player, Percy Tau. Teboho Mokoena scored the penalty.

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 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cote d’Ivoire yesterday.

Substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored the decisive penalty to seal a 4-2 shootout win as Nigeria survived VAR drama to reach their first AFCON’s final after 2023 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 rearguard, with Bafana Bafana targeted the space in 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 strike. That was their third continental crown after wins in 1980 and 1994.

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