Bafana Bafana lose out to Nigeria after penalty shootout

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The South African senior national football team, Bafana Bafana, have bowed out of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the semifinals. They lost to Nigeria 4-2 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 after extra time.

Bafana Bafana will now play in the third and fourth-place playoff match on Saturday.

There was not much to separate the two teams, having drawn four matches with one win apiece in the last six matches.

Bafana Bafana had not defeated the Super Eagles in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament before this match.

Nigeria started the match well, having the majority of ball possession. The Super Eagles made a decent cross, but Ronwen Williams did well to save what could have been a dangerous situation.

South Africa also showed glimpses of attacking threats whenever they went forward, and Siphephelo’s shot was easily saved by South African-based goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.

Opportunities were coming in thick and fast, but Nigeria’s free kick did not trouble Williams. The West Africans had another opportunity courtesy of a free kick, but Lookman’s free kick fell safely into the hands of Williams.

Percy Tau found himself with acres of space inside the box, but his tame shot was easily saved by Nwabili. Tau, who was having a poor tournament, had another opportunity when he beat the Nigerian defender, but unfortunately overran the ball.

Bafana Bafana should have taken the lead, but a brilliant effort from Evidence Makgopa was well saved by Nwabali. The halftime score was goalless.

In the second half, Tau was again in the thick of things when he found himself in front of the Nigerian defender who recovered to dispossess him. The African footballer of the year, Victor Osimhen, was fouled in the box by Mothobi Mvala, and the referee awarded a penalty to the Super Eagles.

Nigerian captain William Troost-Ekong stepped up to convert the spot kick.

In the 74th minute, Makgopa made a fantastic turn on the edge of the box and unleashed a snapshot but just narrowly missed the target. In the 83rd minute, Williams made a brilliant save to deny Ademola Lookman and kept his team in the match.

There was drama at the death when Nigeria thought they scored a second goal to seal the match, but the referee chalked off the goal after consulting VAR and instead awarded a penalty to South Africa after Tau was infringed in the box.

Tebogo Mokoena was cool and calm to convert the penalty and level matters at the death. Defender Mudau should have scored what was supposed to be the winning goal, but he somehow missed from close range. The match went into extra time at 1-1.

In extra time, Williams made two crucial saves to deny Lookman and then Osimhen.

The match then went into the dreaded penalty shootout. SA players Mokoena and Makgopa missed their penalties to give the Super Eagles an advantage, while Mihlali Mayambela and Mothobi Mvala were on target for Bafana Bafana.

However, it was Kelechi Iheanacho who scored the winning penalty to send the Nigerians to the final on Sunday.